Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Magician's Apprentice

by Trudi Canavan


The Magician's Apprentice is a prequel to the Black Magician trilogy. It's set in Kyralia's distant past, and there isn't a great deal of cultural overlap. There are also magicians in this novel, and the geography may be the same, but there's no Guild yet, and the social taboos and restrictions on the use of magic are very different.

Without a Guild, the magicians take on apprentices to teach individually. Lord Dakon is Tessia's local magician, and his role is more or less that of a lord and protector in a feudal system. Dakon is privileged because of his magic, but he is also responsible for the defence of his people. As the daughter of a healer Tessia is further down the social ladder. Although she is both skilled and dedicated she is unlikely to be allowed to work in her chosen profession. She is expected to marry instead, since people in her rigid society do not accept female healers.

Yet the country of Kyralia is positively liberal compared with Sachaka, where slavery is practised. When a magician from Sachaka passes through the village, Tessia learns just how much worse things can be in that country. She also discovers her own magical powers, which instantly change her life and alter her position in society.

However, war is coming. Some disaffected Sachakan magicians intend to invade Kyralia, hoping to gain land and power that they can't hope to own in their native land. Tessia barely has any time for her training before she is thrust into the front line of a battle for her country.

When it comes to the moral and social message behind The Magician's Apprentice, Trudi Canavan is taking aim at some big and easy targets. There's a sense of injustice at the wrongs done to various characters in this story. But what is more interesting than this is the resourcefulness they show in dealing with intolerable situations, or alternatively the way some of them are so trapped by their own attitudes and fears that they will never be free.

Stara is returning to visit her father in Sachaka in order to help him with the family trade. It's a huge culture shock for her to get used to a country where women are undervalued and where slavery is everywhere. It's a system that binds everyone in some way, even those who are supposed to be free men.

Canavan draws the reader straight into her world with likeable characters and tense situations. It's engaging because the author has a good eye for detail, especially when it comes to the way people react to extreme events. Caught up in the chaos and violence of a magical war, Canavan keeps her characters believable by never allowing them to be unaffected by what happens.

There's a touch of romance brewing, but from early on in the novel it seems quite predictable. So although the characters who are involved are intriguing, there's not much fire in their relationship. The ending also seems to lack the kind of emotional impact that would make this story stand out. It's not bad. The plot comes together in a way that makes sense and doesn't leave readers hanging. It just doesn't measure up to the heady intensity of the author's earlier books.

Book Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

If you like this, try:

The Usurper    

The Usurper's Crown by Sarah Zettel
The second novel in the Isavalta series is a prequel which takes the daughter of a fishing family into a realm of magic, treachery and scheming royals.

Sabriel cover    

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Sabriel goes on a journey to rescue her father, even if it means she has to walk through the gates of death itself.


Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntosh
The first novel in the Quickening series finds a young general given a strange gift by a woman condemned for witchcraft.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Trudi Canavan