fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe High Lord, by Trudi Canavan epic fantasy book reviewsThe High Lord by Trudi Canavan

Published in 2003, The High Lord is the action-packed third and final book of Trudi Canavan’s THE BLACK MAGICIAN trilogy. In The High Lord, Canavan brings us back to Sonea’s troubles and her “capture” by Akkarin, the High Lord of the Magician’s Guild. It’s hinted throughout book two, The Novice, that Akkarin might not be as evil and corrupted as his practice of black magic seems to suggest, but it’s in book three that we finally discover some of Akkarin’s motives and end goals. After hearing Akkarin’s life story, Sonea is convinced that her newfound mentor’s actions are justified and begs to assist him in his endeavors, even going as far as to learn black magic herself. Meanwhile, Canavan introduces several subplots into the series that make things vastly more interesting. While I enjoyed the multiple storylines in the novel, my problem with The High Lord seems to also be the plethora of subplots that begin and end within the span of only 700 pages.

I noted in my review of book one, The Magicians’ Guild, that the simplicity of the novel was what made it enjoyable for me and in my review of book two that there was too little action for me to love the novel. The High Lord seems to be the exact opposite of both those installments both because there was an inordinate amount of action in the story and because the pacing seemed much too fast. The first subplot that materializes occurs when Dannyl is suddenly notified that there exists a group of noblemen who are illegally learning magic. Dannyl is then enlisted to deal with the rogue cabal, which resulted in a certain amount of suspense early on in The High Lord. Unfortunately, while Dannyl’s story is intriguing, it also seems to contribute little to the overall plot of the novel except perhaps to return Dannyl to Kyralia in time to witness (highlight for spoilers) the trial of Akkarin and Sonea upon the Guild’s discovery of their use of black magic. As a result, I wasn’t particularly enthralled by this portion of the book because it wasn’t very well developed and ended up seeming slightly unreal. I felt this way about many of the other subplots that popped up throughout The High Lord.

Like Dannyl’s story, Sonea’s love life also suddenly becomes overly and unnecessarily complicated. While I understand that she’s an adolescent girl, as demonstrated by the kisses in The Novice, her sudden infatuation with Akkarin is too abrupt a shift from her unyielding loathing of him for me to buy into. It also didn’t really play a large role in the main plot of the war that occurs between Kyralia and Sachaka, especially since Sonea (highlight to see spoiler) follows Akkarin into exile  out of loyalty and not love. I suspect that Trudi Canavan introduced this storyline purely so that she could  write a sequel trilogy, The Traitor Spy, a few years later. As a result, Sonea’s love story felt shallow and wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed.

While Canavan’s The High Lord is an acceptable conclusion to THE BLACK MAGICIAN series, it wasn’t anything especially stellar or engaging. Although the main plot is still interesting, there are very many extraneous things happening throughout, and I had numerous “why is this happening?” moments. The subplots were underdeveloped, and I think it might have served the trilogy better if Trudi Canavan had begun some of the action in book two rather than stuffing everything into a single volume because it would have both ameliorated the bridge novel problem in The Novice and also allowed Canavan to sufficiently develop her storylines to make them more engaging.

Black Magician — (2001-2009) Young adult. The Magician’s Apprentice is a prequel. Publisher: “We should expect this young woman to be more powerful than our average novice, possibly even more powerful than the average magician.” This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work — until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders… and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield. What the Magicians’ Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.

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  • Kevin Wei

    KEVIN WEI, with us since December 2014, is political/digital strategist based in Harlem. Secretly, Kevin has always believed in dragons. Not the Smaug kind of dragon, only the friendly ones that invite you in for tea (Funke’s Dragon Rider was the story that mercilessly hauled him into the depths of SF/F at the ripe old age of 5). Kevin loves epic fantasy, military SF/F, New Weird, and some historical fantasy; some of his favorite authors include Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Django Wexler, and Joe Abercrombie. In his view, a good book requires not only a good character set and storyline, but also beautiful prose — he's extremely particular about this last bit. You can find him at: