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Trudi Canavan

Author of The Magicians' Guild

66+ Works 24,842 Members 436 Reviews 100 Favorited

About the Author

Trudi Canavan was born on October 23, 1969. She is an Australian writer of fantasy novels. In 1995 Canavan started The Telltale Art, a freelance business specialising on graphical design services. In that same year she began working for Aurealis, a magazine of Australian Fantasy and Science show more Fiction. In 1999, Canavan's writing career took off when she won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story with Whispers of the Mist Children. In 2001, she further established herself with The Magicians' Guild, centring around Sonea, a slum child who is hunted for her rogue magic. The novel was the first of three books of The Black Magician Trilogy. It brought her wide acclaim. The second book of the trilogy is The Novice and the third book is The High Lord, which was nominated for the Best Novel Ditmar category. Canavan's also penned her second trilogy , Age of the Five and a third trilogy The Traitor Spy Trilogy. In 2015 her title Thief's Magic won a Ditmar Award in the Best Novel category. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photo by Paul Ewins


Works by Trudi Canavan

The Magicians' Guild (2001) 5,280 copies, 100 reviews
The Novice (2002) — Author — 4,160 copies, 62 reviews
The High Lord (2002) 3,951 copies, 64 reviews
Priestess of the White (2005) 2,127 copies, 23 reviews
Last of the Wilds (2006) 1,636 copies, 16 reviews
The Magician's Apprentice (2009) 1,615 copies, 46 reviews
Voice of the Gods (2006) 1,506 copies, 15 reviews
The Ambassador's Mission (2010) 1,336 copies, 31 reviews
The Rogue (2011) 942 copies, 23 reviews
Thief's Magic (2014) 732 copies, 23 reviews
The Traitor Queen (2012) 708 copies, 18 reviews
Angel of Storms (2015) 338 copies, 5 reviews
Successor's Promise (2017) 222 copies, 3 reviews
Maker's Curse (1900) 88 copies
The Black Magician Trilogy (2009) 84 copies, 2 reviews
Salt of the Earth (2014) 16 copies, 4 reviews
Traitor Spy Trilogy (2012) 6 copies
La spia dei maghi. La saga dei maghi (2014) 4 copies, 1 review
The Novice part 1 (2007) 3 copies
Last of the Wilds part 2 (2009) 2 copies
Last of the Wilds part 1 (2008) 2 copies
The High Lord part 2 (2008) 2 copies
Voice of the Gods part 2 (2009) 2 copies
The High Lord part 1 (2008) 2 copies
The Novice part 2 (2007) 2 copies
Voice of the Gods part 1 (2009) 2 copies
A Room for Improvement (2003) 1 copy
Camp Follower (2013) 1 copy

Associated Works

Fearsome Journeys (2013) — Contributor — 113 copies, 1 review
Doctor Who: Time Trips (2015) — Contributor — 83 copies, 4 reviews
Legends of Australian Fantasy (2010) — Contributor — 63 copies, 1 review
The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy: Volume 4 (2008) — Cover artist, some editions — 30 copies
Southern Blood: New Australian Tales of the Supernatural (2003) — Illustrator — 27 copies
Forever Shores (2003) — Contributor — 20 copies
The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013 (2014) — Contributor — 11 copies
Grimdark Magazine Issue #19 (2019) — Contributor — 2 copies
In Fabula-divino (2013) — Contributor — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



This is volume 2 of Canavan's first fantasy trilogy, and a much more enjoyable read than volume 1 (which had very little plot). By contrast, in 'The Novice', a great deal happens and a lot of the subplots weave into the main plot, of Sonea's experiences and progress as a magician's novice. Due to her origins in the slums, she meets a great deal of bigotry from other novices and even magicians, and is bullied by a classmate, Regin, who manages to get the rest of the pupils on his side, and later to recruit older pupils too. Each day becomes a battle for survival as Sonea is stalked in the corridors after lessons and repeatedly attacked with magic by larger and larger groups organised by this malicious novice.

Alongside this, a subplot deals with the discovery at the end of book 1, that the leader of the magicians, the High Lord Akkarin, appears to be (illegally) using black magic. At first, Lorlen the administrator involves Sonea's guardian Rothen in keeping the secret, as Akkarin is so strong that an accusation could lead to a pitched battle between him and the Guild magicians, which he is likely to win. Eventually Akkarin learns that his secret is out and shared with Sonea and her guardian, and this leads him to forcibly read their minds in order to find out if they have told anyone else. He then takes over Sonea's guardianship and ensures she can never talk to Rothen or even Lorlen.

A third thread to the story is that Dannyl, friend and former ward of Rothen, is appointed Second Ambassador to the neighbouring land of Elyne. This has been arranged by Lorlen, who recruits Dannyl in investigating libraries and other sources, for information about ancient magic. He doesn't reveal to Dannyl the real reason for this interest, but it is actually to retrace the steps of Akkarin who ten years ago returned from a similar mission, and find out if he learned his black magic somewhere on the trip. All Dannyl knows is that it is inadvisable to let Akkarin know as it might look like prying into his private business, and Dannyl has always been intimidated by the High Lord so is happy to keep the research lowkey. He makes a friend, a scholar at the Great Library in his new land, and as the story goes on, it becomes clear that this friend is gay. In Elyne, this is frowned upon but tolerated whereas in Dannyl's own country it would result in disgrace and in being barred from high office etc. In other countries, it incurs the death penalty.

In a changed premise from book 1, the reason Rothen took on Dannyl's guardianship (most novices don't have guardians) is that rumours were threatening to spoil his chances, following a friendship with another novice who was suspected to be gay. In book 1, there was no mention of this - the reason being that Dannyl was lazy and neglecting his studies, and also spending too much time in a running feud with another novice (who became the villain in book 1). As Dannyl spends more time with his new friend he eventually undergoes an experience where he realises that he is actually gay and has been using his magic to suppress it.

A minor subplot is that strange murders are happening in the city which point to a rogue magician. Lorlen starts to believe that Akkarin could be responsible.

The storytelling itself seems a little better this time though Canavan hasn't entirely got rid of the superfluous adverbs whenever anyone speaks, and also there is far too much nodding, chuckling, smiling etc, again in character dialogue. People smile and chuckle in situations where things are quite serious and it jars. However, there is a bit more tension in this book, and a definite improvement on volume 1. One blooper is that at one point Canavan forgets to use her invented terms and refers to the network of hidden tunnels outside the University as a "spider's web" instead of the invented term she usually uses for arachnids. As with book 1, I don't know why she bothered to go through inventing new names for things that sound from context and the back-at-book glossary to be mice, rats, coffee, spiders and other everyday items.

This volume didn't make 5 stars for me because it was difficult to believe that a supposedly tough slum girl would have been so timid in facing down her tormentors. Also, she seems very naive, for example, when she first has a meal with the other novices, she answers their nosy questions frankly, admitting that she stole when a child, and when asked if she ever killed someone, that she might have because she defended herself with a knife from sexual assault once. A character who has grown up with such experiences would surely be more shrewd in her responses to the questioning by what turns out to be a bunch of spoiled brats - she could, for example, have said that she helped her aunt and uncle make clothes for a living (true) and that not everyone in the slums steals, using a suitably offended tone. And just said 'no' about the killing. As it is, the other novices immediately turn against her and follow Regin because she has put them all off. I found it hard to believe that she wouldn't have learned to be ecconomical with the truth if not an outright liar on occasion, when she had spent quite a few childhood years in a gang, where surely such skills would have been lifesaving on occasion. Possibly the truth could subsequently have been discovered and put round about Regin, given his obsession with getting her expelled, but it seemed ridiculous that she handed over this ammunition against herself.

The bullying sessions also go on for a very long time: she initially tries to escape by extra tuition that allows her to rise to the previous class who at least are not bullies, but Regin does the same and follows, and he then recruits more and more novices to join in his attacks. The magicians do absolutely nothing, even though this is a definite breakdown of discipline on a large scale which they might be expected to frown on for its own sake despite any personal feelings about having a 'slum girl' in the University. And although she acquires a coach to help her with warrior skills (that is, being able to defend against and make her own attacks), she doesn't go to him for help (she can't ask Rothen or Lorlan due to the situation with the High Lord) which would seem the obvious thing to do - she wouldn't even have to explain why, just that she needs to improve those skills, which is one of the threads in the story. In fact, at one point, the tutor is discussing the situation with Akkarin (who knows about the bullying but allows it to go on, to help develop Sonea's powers) and says her problem is that she is 'too nice'. This seems very odd for a girl who is meant to be a tough city kid, rebellious, and defiant of the magicians in book 1, a girl who is handy with a knife on occasion - almost as if she has turned into a sheltered rich kid herself. There is also a slight element of 'Mary Sue', in that Sonea is already stronger than a novice of her age would normally be and showing signs of developing into a magician powerful enough to eventually oppose Akkarin, though I suppose being the protagonist, she couldn't just be an average magician. But the character change isn't very convincing, and therefore I can only give the book 4 stars although I enjoyed other aspects of it.

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kitsune_reader | 61 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
An easy read although a little disappointing. The premise - a society where extremes of poverty and wealth exist, and where prejudice ensures that no one from the slums is examined for magical potential and offered a place at the Magicians' Guild university - is interesting. A young woman, Sonea, accidentally discovers she has magic when she throws a stone at the magicians as they perform the periodic 'clearing' of slum people known as the Purge. They recognise her ability, because her anger drives the stone through their protective magical shield, and for 250 pages search for her in the slums while friends, and then the Thieves organisation, hide her and move her from one safe house to another. Meanwhile, her awakened magic is asserting itself every time she becomes emotional, until it becomes a threat to those around her.

Although there are interlude scenes and chapters where we see some of the magicians who are sympathetic to her plight, she doesn't arrive at the university until around page 250, at which point the story becomes more interesting. A villain tries to discredit her, but all ends well although there is a future threat in the background.

It strikes me that this initial volume is a tale that could in another book be just the first third or so before getting into the story. As the reader sees the magicians' POV as well, it's obvious that there are good guys who are trying to capture her for her own good, and the city's, before her powers become uncontrollably destructive, so it becomes rather boring and frustrating to have repeated scenes of her in one safe house or another, being discovered, and then eluding the magicians once again. Although the sections from the goodie magicians' viewpoints do develop their characters to some extent, they also have the effect of dissipating any tension - Sonea and her supporters believe that the magicians will kill her, as they (accidentally) killed a boy when she threw the stone - but the reader knows that they are only trying to help.

I also didn't find any of the characters particularly well developed, although I liked the two goodie magicians, Rothen and Darryl. The protagonist, Sonea, for me is a bit of a cipher and had no real character. Her one characteristic is that she distrusts nearly everyone around her apart from her friend Cery, who is a bit more interesting. The element in the second part of the book that falls a bit flat is that Sonea gives in very easily to the villain's blackmail: it seems obvious that she should tell her mentor, who would then organise the necessary search and sort out the problem, so again, the level of narrative tension is undermined.

There are maps at the front of the book which show the layout of the magicians' living area, the city and the country. I found the city map confusing because although there are frequent references to the slums being beyond the 'Outer wall', they are not shown at all on the map - it just looks as if there is empty countryside outside the outer parts of the circular city - so it was difficult to envisage how the two areas interacted.

I had nearly finished reading when I discovered that there was a glossary to all the invented terms used in the story and a slang dictionary, at the back of the book. I didn't feel either were needed as you could guess what things were from the context, but a lot of the substitutions are rather forced; why is it necessary to have invented terms for strong drink, beverages, various rodents etc, when surely the usual ones could have done? Or else just have one or two, not loads. If it's meant to be a world building facet of the book, I didn't find it helpful/convincing.
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kitsune_reader | 99 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
This final volume in the trilogy is a mixed bag. The surprise is the change in the character of Akkarin, who has been a complete horror especially in book 2 - forcibly reading the minds of his oldest friend Lorlen, and Rothen and Sonea, then threatening each with what will happen to the others if they tell anyone he uses black magic, that is, the draining of power from others. He also callously pushed Sonea into the path of 20 bullying novices by ejecting her from the secret tunnels she was using to escape victimisation. Yet early on in this book, he starts to take her into his confidence about the traumatic events which happened to him when he ventured into the neighbouring land of Sachaka, and was captured by one of the outcast magicians in its wasteland. This is the start of his transformation, not totally successfully, into a sympathetic character. And the alarm bells rang for me when Sonea overhears a couple of female fellow pupils discussing his potential as a love interest. At that point, I became convinced that Sonea was going to fall for him despite the way he has intimidated her and her friends, and her fear of him up to now.

Sure enough, Akkarin draws her in, and we discover he has a good reason for his actions - protecting the country, city and magicians from the threat from Sachaka, while keeping secret that he has to use a form of magic once commonly used but now banned under the most severe penalties and called black magic, following tragic events centuries ago. The Sachakan magicians are all users of such magic and each is far stronger than dozens of guild magicians due to their constant draining of energy from slaves with magical potential.

Sonea's involvement eventually leads her to petition Akkarin to let her learn it and join his fight, and she ends up killing one of the Sachakans who are coming to the city to try to kill Akkarin prior to invading. A surprise is that about halfway through the book, she and Akkarin are found out and banished to the homeland of the enemies. Their colleagues come across as pretty dumb - they don't believe they can execute Akkarin or keep him locked up for the time it would take to find out if his story is true. So, despite him and Sonea being the only ones who can defend everyone if they are telling the truth, they send them into the arms of the people who want to kill them for precisely that reason!.

I had problems with the book, hence only 3 stars. As I've said, I didn't find Sonea's drastic change of feelings convincing. Plus, her being barely 20 compared to Akkarin's being early 30s (younger than he came across as being in the first two books) and her having been afraid of him for about two years, convinced that he was evil, with his behaviour often confirming that, made it seem she had been brainwashed.

More minor issues included the introduction of a love interest character for Sonea's friend Cery (unlike volume 2, he has a big role in the book) from a rival faction of magicians in Sachaka, who does nothing apart from saving him at one point, as she is there just as an observer. From the reaction of one of the bad guys to her, it seems she is important - I'm guessing that she is the daughter of the Sachakan king, but we never learn anything more, her characterisation is minimal, and I found her scenes boring.

Similarly, Dannyl appears with his boyfriend, but does little in plot terms - he becomes involved in busting a secret ring of would-be magicians in the country where he is an ambassador, but that part of the plot doesn't come to anything. This is a shame because I found Dannyl an engaging character in the first two books, but he spends most of this one worrying that people will find out he is gay.
Rothen goes off to become a spy on the Sachakans, travelling with another new character, Raven, who gives him lessons in how to spy, but ends up recalled due to the main plotline, so that's another subplot that fizzles out. The villain from book 1 makes an underwhelming appearance, and Regin from book 2 a totally unbelievable repentance. Akkarin makes blood jems for himself and Sonea so they can stay in touch with each other, but never actually uses his. And the big climax where they confront the leader of the invaders is over in a few paragraphs. Plus, after the revelation that magic is stored in buildings and the Arena is an enormous power source to use against the invaders, why on earth don't they? It's as if they decided they didn't want to wreck the university. With that magic, of course, it's much more likely that both Akkarin and Sonea would have survived the battle. Canavan obviously wanted to kill Akkarin off, but it's not even as if Sonea is shown as devastated - there are a couple of mentions from Rothen about her being griefstricken, but in the epilogue, she seems pretty chipper as she faces up to motherhood in a conclusion that falls a bit flat.

The trademark annoying tendency in this trilogy for people to nod, chuckle etc is still present, even when a bloodbath has just occurred.

To conclude, after the much better volume 2, this one has dipped in quality because of the lack of conviction in the direction of Sonea's feelings and relationship with Akkarin and his with her, and the sheer number of subplots that don't deliver and even drag a bit.

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1 vote
kitsune_reader | 63 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
First of all I must say that although I only rate this novel three and a half stars, I enjoyed this book a lot and I am about to start the second installment of the series today.
"The Magicians' Guild" starts with a very poignant scene that draws you in immediately. After that, the world of Kyralia is established within a few chapters: The rich and poor citizens, the thieves who live in an underground system of tunnels, and the magicians, who are supposedly there for the safety of the city but are hated by the poor. Sonea, the protagonist, is one of those poor townspeople and her family has just been evicted from their home. She fiercely hates the magicians, so it is a shock when she discovers that she can perform magic, too - and it is an even bigger shock to the magician's guild because no one of lower rank is expected or desired to be a magician and it would upend the social design of Kyralia if it became known that there are common people who are capable of working magic... Thus, Sonea has to flee.
What I liked about this book is the style that is flowing and easy to read. It is also a book with many shades of grey and not a strict good/bad characterization, which I always appreciate. Sonea is a great character and the world building is plausible and thorough, including the sociological aspects that really stand out.
Unfortunately, though, I found the first two thirds of the novel dragging a lot sometimes. I just wanted the story to proceed and Sonea's situation to change. There were also too many characters in the beginning, and it was a bit confusing. I would have wished for a more distinctive description of characteristics in the beginning.
However, I loved the last third of the novel and there are all the positive points I mentioned before, so I will definitely continue the series. In addition, this book ends with a really exciting revelation, so I cannot wait to see what happens next and to learn how Sonea develops and, hopefully, grows more confident.
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MissBrangwen | 99 other reviews | Nov 8, 2023 |



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