The Novice continues The Black Magician Trilogy in the same fluid, fast-paced style that I liked about the opening volume, The Magician’s Guild.
In the first book, the action took place mainly in the Guild and the colourful world of the slums. In The Novice, though we still see a great deal of the Guild where Sonea begins her formal education as a magician, the slums and the intriguing characters that inhabit them take a back seat. There is a brief appearance from Cery and Sonea pays her aunt and uncle a brief visit, but those who were fascinated by the thieves and their enthralling activities in the first book will be disappointed.
Instead, Trudi Canavan takes us farther afield and introduces us to the different cultures and peoples outside of Imardin. We accompany Dannyl, the newly promoted assistant ambassador, in his travels around Kyralia as he performs his official duties as well as a secret task set by Lorien and Rothen to learn more of the High Lord’s past.
As in the previous book, Canavan does not attempt to dazzle readers by populating her fantasy world with monstrous creatures. Neither does she bore us with endless battles and impossible escapades that are vital ingredients in other fantasy series. What Canavan gives us in abundance is great human drama as her likeable characters find themselves in “real” dilemmas that readers will find familiar. We feel for Dannyl as he tries comes to terms with his sexuality and we sympathise with Sonea as she is forced to keep up a façade to protect those that she loves.
There were just two things that (slightly) marred my enjoyment of this book. First, the previous book painted Sonea as a worldly character, one used to the harsh realities of life having grown up in relative poverty. In The Novice, however, she transforms into a wimp as she lets Regine, the book’s primary antagonist, bully her constantly. She is hesitant to fight back- surely her training from the thieves would have taught her to defend herself more readily?
My second moan is less a criticism and more of a sign of my impatience. We hardly learn anything new about Akkarin, the High Lord. Canavan gives a few hints here and there but Akkarin remains very much an enigma by the end of the book. I guess all will be revealed in the third and final book in the series. I’ve already pre-ordered by copy – and so should you!