Bookshelf spotlight: Black Magician Trilogy

I discovered Trudi Canavan through her Black Magician trilogy when I was living in Wales. I think I initially found them at the library, as I was skint during my post-doc years in Cardiff, then bought my own copies later, as I did with another of her series (still to come). But it’s also very possible I found them in the second hand bookshop in town. There was a fantastic second hand bookshop just across the road from the castle, in one of the arcades, that was multiple stories and seemed to have a lot of secret ways to more books. Anyway, I digress.

The Magician's Guild, The Novice and The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

The Black Magician trilogy tells the story of Sonea, a girl who grows up in the lower classes of the city. Once a year, there is “the purge”. This is where magicians from the guild, of course all who have been sourced from the higher ranked families, use magic to purge the streets of “vagrants”. Basically clearing people out of the city that they don’t like and forcing them out into slums. During this purge, Sonea gets angry, and uses magic (unknowingly, andfor the first time in her life, from memory) to propel a stone through the shield at one of the magicians. This is of course a shocking event for magic isn’t supposed to be present in the lower classes. Thus begins a manhunt for the girl who can yield magic. She is kept hidden for a time until finally she is handed over to the magician’s guild. Not only is Sonea of the low classes, she is also older than the average novice who enters the guild. And she is stronger. This results in some rather unpleasant experiences and bullying as she tries to learn as much as she can. But her strength also brings her to the attention of one that all seem to be just a little afraid of: the high lord who is the strongest magician that has been seen for a very long time. And the youngest high lord recorded. But there are other troubles in the land, and a threat from further afield. This series covers all that, and lost history, to conclude magnificently.

It’s an easy read, but not overly simple. It’s Trudi Canavan’s first series, but I didn’t find it wanting, or look at it and think “ah, that was because she was inexperienced.” I thoroughly enjoyed the Black Magician trilogy each and every time I have read it. It was just what I needed back when I was stressed and exhausted during my post-doc. And it has been just what I have needed each time I have reread it since – including when I wasn’t stressed and exhausted. It’s not my favourite series by this author, but it is the one that introduced me to her. And one that I like to revisit.

Blurb for book one:

Each year the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city streets of vagrants, urchins, and miscreants. Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them. But their protective shield is not an impenetrable as they believe.

For as the mob are herded from the city, a young street girl, furious at the authorities’ treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all her rage behind it. To the amazement of all who bear witness, the stone passes unhindered through the barrier and renders a magician unconscious.

It is an inconceivable act, and the guild’s worst fear has been realised – an untrained magician is loose on the streets. She must be found, and quickly, before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home.

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