fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Novice by Trudi Canavan epic fantasy book reviewsThe Novice by Trudi Canavan

The sequel to The Magicians’ Guild, Trudi Canavan’s The Novice is book two in her THE BLACK MAGICIAN trilogy. After being mentored by the kindly Lord Rothen for a number of weeks, Sonea meets the rest of her class at the Guild as the term officially begins. Although she attempts to be friendly with them, all of her class eventually turns against her for being a lower class slum girl rather than members of the nobility like them. In particular, a novice named Regin seems to despise her utterly, for no apparent reason, as he bullies her in a variety of ways, going as far as framing her for a theft she didn’t commit. Interestingly, Lord Dannyl begins to play a larger role in the story as he is sent abroad by Administrated Lorlen to investigate Akkarin’s past and his use of black magic.

Dannyl’s appointment as Second Ambassador to Elyne served as a gateway for Canavan to introduce more of her world to us. With The Novice, we’re brought to many of the other lands that exist around Kyralia and are acquainted with a few different cultures. Certain aspects of the magic system in Canavan’s world become clearer as well. However, though this is all interesting, much of the novel felt simply too much like Canavan was setting up for a grand finale in book three for me to enjoy the story. While I don’t believe Canavan’s world building is her greatest strength, without this element in The Novice, I was almost tempted to quit the series.

Most of what irked me about The Novice was a combination of a lack of action and extremely slow pacing. Throughout the novel, there is little action, if any, until quite literally the last chapter. Although I noted in my review of The Magicians’ Guild that I enjoyed the theme of class conflict, I can’t say that I liked the fact that most of the conflict that occurred in The Novice was between Sonea and her spiteful classmates. Akkarin’s storyline barely budges with the exception of his taking custody of Sonea. Other than that, we see much too much of Regin chasing Sonea through the halls and Regin stealing Sonea’s notes instead of any discovery of Akkarin’s motives or justifications for his actions. If anything, Canavan simply uses book two to portray Akkarin as evil and corrupt while Sonea remains mostly the innocent child we saw in The Magicians’ Guild.

Furthermore, Sonea, along with many of the other characters, doesn’t really undergo much character development. In a way, Sonea’s character might be too simple in The Novice, especially when I consider the plot of book three. In general, Sonea’s personality feels too innocent, and while she does kiss a friend once or twice in The Novice, she still comes across as a child at the end of the book, little changed from book one. The same holds true for many of the other characters. While it’s certainly interesting that Dannyl turns out to be queer, his sexuality felt too artificial and too much like a side note for me to actually consider it to be character development. Akkarin is as intimidating and aloof as always, as I noted above, and Rothen simply gets booted from the plot completely.

When I consider the dearth of character development and the lack of action in The Novice, it becomes very difficult for me to see this novel as anything but a bridge between books one and three. To be honest, after finishing the trilogy, I simply feel that you can almost skip this book entirely and read the rest of the series without missing much. While I can appreciate a more action-packed, dramatic end to THE BLACK MAGICIAN series, I can’t help but feel that Trudi Canavan missed an opportunity with The Novice.

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.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Trudi Canavan The Magician's Apprentice 2009


  • 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:

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