The Black Magician

by Trudi Canavan

Rating: ★★★

The Magicians' Guild

An inoffensive example of the magical school fantasy genre. Traditional world-building, tightly-character focused, slow and steady in its progression. The characters have a slight tendency to exposit at each other, but nothing incurable or unforgivable for the first novel of a fantasy series, and handled relatively well by the setup. There is as yet nothing horribly broken about the magic system or society. Easy reading, good for sinking into with a drink while bad weather rages.

The Novice

A reliable second novel for the series, with much of the same slow and steady progression. The first few pages suffer from trying to cram in a recap of the first book -- a tic I don't tend to like -- but other than that it was decent enough. Two plot elements felt like flaws. Firstly, Regin's torment of Sonea seemed mindlessly self-destructive, even more than her adversary's attempt at blackmail in the first book. A young noble of talent shouldn't be so blinded by hatred that he risks escalating his perception as a bully once caught, or once his target gains powerful protection. His motives were never really discussed, making him seem both bad and stupid, a lazy combination. Second, Dannyl turned out to be gay, which seems to unintentionally validate the villain of the first book, and at the same time undercut the attitude Dannyl had been presenting, of a man not himself gay but sympathetic to those who were. It seems a bit reductive to divide most characters into homosexuals or homophobes. Overall, though, not major issues. Still an easy, light read, but with some developments on the High Lord plot that were quite welcome, and start to move the story to where it will need to go in the final act.

The High Lord

An appropriate conclusion to the series, with a fairly gripping series of crises and escalations leading up to the invasion battle. On the whole, pretty well carried-off as a finale. The inclusion of the romance with Akkarin seemed a little odd as a choice, but gave one of the core relationships for this book at least a glimmer of another dimension. The deaths and other losses of the conflict were used well. The only real weak element was Dannyl's storyline, which seemed more about keeping him mentioned in the plot than an actual contribution -- nothing he did ultimately contributed much to the conclusion.

Overall, this series is no real award-winner, with neither a particularly developed world nor any special strengths in the style, characters or plot. It is, however, solid. Canavan takes an ordinary sort of fantasy setting, builds a workable if somewhat vague magic system, builds a few characters, and takes her time following through a generally entertaining plot. It works, and it was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.