Off the Shelf
The Black Magician Trilogy
By Marcus Pan
How many of you can remember
the first time you cracked the covers of a classic multi-book fantasy series?
The first time you looked into Hickman's Dragonlance, maybe? Or, of
course, Tolkien's Middle Earth? How about Donaldson's White Gold? Forgotton
Realms? And on we go...there's tons. But of all of those out there are
always those that stand out, the ones I mentioned just now by name. I'd like to
add to that list now, however, with Trudi Canavan's Black Magician
Set and centered mostly in the city of Imardin which reminds
me of Sanctuary(1) (Thieve's World), this three book tale follows the
life of a young girl named Sonea. In Canavan's fantasy realm magic is something
only certain people have which isn't an unusual concept but when
potential magicians are discovered they need to have the power released and
centered by an already trained magician. To do this, the country of Kyralia, in
which lies Imardin, has created the old Magician's Guild a place of
training for potential magicians to discover and utilize their powers in
protection and service of the kingdom.
Non-guild magicians, rogues, are not tolerated and any
magician who wishes to leave the guild whether by choice or nay has their
powers bound so they can't tap into them much like shutting off an
emotional power source. Even wearing the marked robes of a magician when one is
not is a crime. All magicians of Kyralia and other allied lands
are found, taught and members of the Magician's Guild. Organized into a rigid
hierarchal structure, the guild advises and takes orders from the king and
governs itself from within.
Every long time coming the occasional person will find
themselves with magical ability which arises naturally due to its sheer
strength and power. Unfortunately, that very power will manifest itself
randomly without proper training and centering by the guild who can teach one
how to control and use the power. If that does not happen an untrained magician
has the potential to cause cataclysmically destructive results as the power
overwhelms them and takes out a good portion of the area around them as
Sonea is such a magician. Throughout the first book in the
trilogy, The Magician's Guild, the storyline follows Sonea's discovery
of her powers one day during the traditional yearly Purge of the Imardin city
where the power of the magician's is used to push out the derelicts and
unwanteds from the inner walls of the pristine city into the slums that
surround them. The Purge is, as expected, looked on as a terrible thing every
year and always draws crowds of people to protest both loudly and violently.
Drug into the fray, Sonea finds herself one of these protestors and in a freak
incident hurls a stone at the lined magicians to find that it has
penetrated their magical shield and solidly slapped one about the head.
The result is a search of the city and the slums for this
rogue magician. While Sonea and her friends feel the guild will of course kill
her for being a magician outside the guild who typically choose their
potential students only from the higher well to do of Kyralia and not slum
dwellers like her the guild is actually trying to find her before she
self destructs and takes half of the city with her. Hiding out in the
underground tunnels of the Thieves Road in an attempt to keep the searching
mages away from her, the find is eventual and Sonea finds herself struggling
with the fact that within the guild which she has hated all her life
are really good people with good morals. She's asked to join and learn
Of course, the fine morals of any group will
typically have the occasional bad apple, and Sonea is forced to choose not to
join by another mage who's purpose is to not allow slum dwellers into the
"higher creed" of the Magician's Guild. The intrigue is mystifying and
satisfying and, of course, Sonea gets out of the deal when her friend Cery,
whom was being held ransom for her decision, is found in the passages of the
guild hall by another. She joins the guild...which is good because if not that
then we wouldn't have...
Book two of the series, The Novice, follows Sonea's
learning within the confines of the guild. Her struggles are doubled by nagging
brats of "higher" social order who, regardless of Sonea's obvious strength of
power, heckle and pursue her at every opportunity. The book spends much of its
time describing the childish pranks and ambushes Sonea must face in school due
to her social status, as a dwell, and this allows Trudi to really begin rolling
out subtle plotlines that continue to build quietly in the background as The
Novice takes on a more whimsical tack overall.
The High Lord is a riveting finish to the storyline.
Akarrin, High Lord of the Magician's Guild of Kyralia, is found to be a
practitioner of Black Magic the ability to siphon power off of other
people to increase your own whether to fight or protect. While the power does
provide many good possibilities for moralistic use, it also provides the
ability to become so powerful that an entire guild of magicians can not stop
you and hence many centuries before was banned from use and never taught
again in the guild. However, unallied lands have continued to use the power of
black magic and, therefore, has become very strong. A handful of their rogue
magicians could easily overrule the Kyralian's sheer numbers.
For this reason Akkarrin learned and practiced black magic
after learning it as a slave on a quest as a young member of the Kyralian
guild. Practicing in secret while being occasionally pursued by assassins with
the same power from the land he fled, he enlists Sonea as a willing but
not overly wanted by him apprentice of the arts. The final confrontation
finds Sonea and Akkarin banished from the guild and hiding in the city's
outlying slums as a handful of rogue magicians from the Sachakan lands
terrorize and beat down the guild itself. The battles are ferocious yet heroic,
with the duo using tricks and traps to take out the Sachakan invaders one by
Trudi's series is phenomenally good and I
enjoyed it immensely and recommend The Black Magician trilogy to
anybody. Her characters are wonderfully detailed, the Kyralian milieu is
intrinsically detailed and realistic and the plotlines are suspenseful and
fulfilling. Sonea is as good a character as Frodo Baggins and the supporting
folks are just as interesting. Much time is spent as they muddle over different
thoughts in their heads giving the reader more insight into the world of
Kyralia while simultaneously defining the people with fervor and realism. Pick
it up yourself for a jaunt through a fantasy realm that, twenty years from now,
will be as much a classic world as Middle Earth has become.
The Magicians Guild by Trudi
Copyright © 2001 by Trudi Canavan
Published by EOS, of
Harper Collins Publishers
The Novice by Trudi Canavan
Copyright © 2002 by Trudi Canavan
Published by EOS, of Harper
The High Lord by Trudi Canavan
Copyright © 2003 by Trudi Canavan
Published by EOS, of Harper
(1) Shadows of
Sanctuary was reviewed in Legends #147.
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