Author: Trudi Canavan
Synopsis: 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.
My Thoughts: Lately I’ve been in the mood for some more high fantasy, and when I found this trilogy in a charity book shop it seemed the perfect opportunity. Sonea is a young girl who discovers her dormant magical powers by accident and is forced to go on the run as the Magicians’ Guild seek to claim her as one of their own. She enlists the help of faithful friend Cery and eventually becomes involved in some of the secret dealings of the Guild itself.
Initially, I found it a little difficult to get into the story because so many characters are introduced at once, especially during the Guild scenes, and I would have appreciated a few more physical descriptions to help me remember. As the story progresses this becomes less of a problem and the lack of description leaves the reader free to imagine the characters as they please. Sonea is a dwell from the slums, and like her fellow dwells she despises the Guild and all they stand for. Her discovery of dormant magical powers causes an interesting internal dilemma for her and I enjoyed the subsequent questioning of her beliefs. I particularly liked the character of the magician Rothen and his interactions with Sonea as these opposite views are brought together and both seek to gain knowledge from each other.
Invented foods and objects are a common feature of high fantasy stories but there are lots of little touches the author has made to the land of Kyralia that make it that bit more immersive. There is a glossary at the back for terms used throughout the book, along with some helpful explanations of slang used by the slums-dwellers. Invented animals also aren’t that unusual, but I can’t remember reading a fantasy where there are alternative names for existing creatures as is the case here. Mentions of eight-legged faren and scurrying ravi are subtle reminders that the world here is a different one to ours, and I found myself living in it quite happily whenever I continued to read.
With the additional knowledge the reader has of other characters’ motives, I found myself a little frustrated by some of Sonea’s decisions. The book is divided into two parts, and whilst I enjoyed reading snippets of the Guild’s increasing determination to find Sonea and her exploration of hidden passages under the city, much of the first part consists of her trying to evade capture from the Guild. However, the story kicks up a gear during part two and by the end I was eager to discover the fate of these characters and for Sonea to emerge victorious. The ending is satisfying, and also opens up interesting new avenues to be explored in the next book.
In Short: Solid high fantasy with good characters and lots of little details that make the world more immersive. Doesn’t truly pick up until part two but the ending is satisfying. An absorbing read. 8/10