The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan


The Magician’s Guild is a fantastic first book to begin The Black Magician Trilogy. I found it to be simply written, yet original, unpredictable, fast-paced and throbbing with intensity.

It was easy to be transported into the world described, and quite often I felt present on the journey with the likeable lead character. I did, however, feel a slightly stronger connection to the characters, and particularly their emotions, than the environment.

There was a tendency to flit between storylines mid-chapter and this may disrupt the flow for some readers, while others may find it adds to the intensity. I found it initially a bit disruptive, but grew to enjoy it as I progressed.

A rewarding feature of this book is that certain information is deduced by the reader, not masses, but enough to be satisfying.

I would strongly recommend this book as a light introduction to fantasy writing, and the sub-genre of magicians. It may also appeal to more experienced readers who are looking for a light read.
Mark Perfect, 8.4/10

When I reviewed Trudi Canavan’s ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ a few weeks back, I mentioned that in reading it, I had acquired a deep longing to read the series to which it prequels. I had never encountered this before, as most of the prequel books I had ever read were for series I had already been well entrenched in. This was a first for me, to have a prequel book do just what it was intended; inspire the reader to read more.

And so I dove headfirst into the original trilogy, published in 2001, starting with The Magicians’ Guild.

And it was everything I had hoped it would be.

Trudi Canavan writes with a beatific simplicity that lulls the reader into a state of susceptible enjoyment. She does not write with the fervour that Janny Wurts does, or with the mind-numbing complexity of Steven Erikson. In her own way though, she is just as captivating and compelling a writer.

The story is set several hundred years after the events of the Magician’s Apprentice, and as such is almost an entirely different world. Events have become glorified or demonized; nations have grown and fallen; and the Magician’s of the world are all centred around the capital city of Kyralia, Imardin.

Canavan paints a beautiful and, subsequently, devastatingly realistic picture of the differences between the have’s and the have not’s. The poorer people of the city are deprived of all but the basic allowances, and even then have them revoked once a year in the great purge which sees them driven from the city-proper before winter. As a result, characters are split into three categories; the desperately poor, the comfortably rich, and those would do something on either side but are unable too.

The characters introduced to us will see us through to the very last book, and as a result, are introduced slowly and meticulously. The story does not rush, and in fact surprises the reader in its length to reach a conclusion all but impossible to avoid thanks to the covers blurb. This in and of itself makes for a lovely bonus, as the book does not conform to what the reader thinks upon turning to the first page.

Naturally there are those within the “establishment” that are less ingrained in the upper class hatred of the poor, and thus allow our lead, Sonea, to find attachments despite her best attempts to the contrary.

I was immensely pleased throughout, with my inability to predict everything that would happen. Canavan doesn’t attempt to hide the story, but simply reveals what is necessary as is necessary, and anything else the reader is able to deduce is to their benefit.

If you’re looking for a fun quick book to read, or even looking to introduce young teenagers into the world of fantasy with good writing, then Trudi Canavan is definitely the way to go. A definite winner.
Joshua S Hill, 7.6/10

Reviews by and Joshua S Hill

10 positive reader review(s) for The Magician's Guild

All reviews for Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician Trilogy series

The Magician's Apprentice

In the remote village of Mandryn, Tessia serves as assistant to her father, the village Healer - much to the frustration of her mother, who would rather she found a husband [...]

The Magician's Guild

The Magician's Guild is set in Imardin, where every year the magicians amass in order to rid the streets of the homeless and miscreants. The magicians believe themselve [...]

The Novice

The second book in Trudi Canavan’s The Black Magician trilogy continues on from the first flawlessly, almost as if there should not have been a break. Sonea has decid [...]

The High Lord

In the city of Imardin, where those who wield magic wield power, a young street-girl, adopted by the Magician's Guild, finds herself at the centre of a terrible plot th [...]

More Trudi Canavan reviews

Thief's Magic

In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vell [...]

The Ambassador's Mission

Sonea, a Black Magician of Kyralia, is horrified when her son, Lorkin, volunteers to assist the new Guild Ambassador to Sachaka. When word comes that Lorkin has gone missin [...]

The Rogue

Kyralia is facing threats at home and abroad, as a rogue killer stalks its capital's streets, while the neighbouring kingdom of Sachaka is breeding a rebellion that cou [...]

The Traitor Queen

Events are building to a climax in Sachaka as Lorkin returns from his exile with the Traitor rebels. The Traitor Queen has given Lorkin the huge task of brokering an allian [...]


The Magician's Guild reader reviews

from Bulgaria

I loved the trilogy!I Read all of the books without being able to put them down.

from Durham, North England

In March of this year, I managed to slip and fall on some ice and near to break my arm. This meant doing nearly anything was excruciatingly painful. Fortunately, this did not stop me from reading, something which to me is more necessary than food and only slightly less than oxygen. I waded into Magician's Guild, a series a friend had recommended, hoping for something deep and enriching to take my mind off my evil aching elbow, and at least that far I was not disappointed, the story had lots of action and detail, and an interesting premise to keep me thinking. The more I read however, the less captivated I became by Magicians Guild, and the more obvious it was that this was Canavan's first novel. In fairness I will say the book was good enough to make me want to go on to the rest of the series, and equally this series certainly got better with each book (I would award The Novice a six and The Highlord an eight), however that doesn't get away from the fact that all in all I found The Magician's Guild only fair at best. One thing which I really did appreciate about the book, was its premise and history. One of the successes of writers such as Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft is the ability to show a full scale world and its history and culture through glimpses, allusions of past events or even architectural details or place names. This is something other writers have tried with varying levels of success, but one admirable thing Trudi Canavan manages is to eschew this technique in favour of a simple, character driven approach. We know just what the other characters (especially the principle protagonist Sonea) know, indeed it wasn't until a good ways through the book that I found out the name of the city or country. This deft revelation of the world is something extremely well planned and really gives the reader a sense of scale, that this is a huge city people live in, and that the problems of individual characters are absolutely important to them, far more so than distant wars or political relations. This also brings home to the reader the fact that the divide betwene rich and poor is quite extreme. The Rich may have imported items from distant lands or know the city's history, but the poor are simply concerned with dodging around the law and finding food, clothing and shelter. One technique of world building however I do not appreciate, is Canavan's use of fantasy names for perfectly normal types of animals. While otherworldly creatures or artefacts specific to a culture should of course have their own names, to call a rat a ravi or sheep a reeba seems a rather cheap way of borrowing mystery for its own sake. This also created an actual problem in the names of The Thieves, a shadowy, mafia type organization, since having them simply called spider or ox would've been far more menacing, and have really emphasised the fact that The Thieves were using animalistic names, as well as missing out on the somewhat clumsy exposition necessary to understand what their names meant. Stylistically in general I felt distinctly let down. While Canavan doesn't fall into the pseudo film script writing style of someone like Eoin Colfer, I found her bald statement of the action and her general use of language clunky, lacking rhythm or atmosphere, sometimes even patronising, often making me feel as if I was having the city described to me as a slightly dim tourist, rather than actually being a witness to events, let alone getting a character’s emotional perspective. This especially came across because Canavan's style is typified by long expository passages with no use of poetry or rhythm, she simply "says" what happens, often with need to explain minor details to the uninitiated reader. While this does have the advantage of making the reader intimately equated with characters and their lives, it equally feels extremely disjointed in places, and is doubtless the chief reason I have seen several reviewers complain at her harping on insignificant details. A good stylist after all can convey information without seeming to convey it, but Canavan's plain, unornamented prose simply exist, meaning that details just get stated and that's it. Another fact which contributes to this rather clumsy problem, is that of overall pacing. The book features two principle plot threads, Sonea's attempts to avoid capture by what she perceives to be the evil magicians who routinely aide in kicking her and the other poor out of the city, and the Guild's often ponderous attempts to find Sonea and persuade her to accept training in magic. The problem however, is that both of these plots take up two thirds of the novel. We know (not the least because the second in the series is called The Novice), that Sonea will eventually join the Guild, thus we are presented with a huge amount of prevarication for its own sake. While I do enjoy the way Canavan presents us with a group of Magicians divided in attitude towards the poor, and often somewhat removed from reality (they felt very much like my own university's Philosophy department), as well as slum dwellers who range from class solidarity to criminal syndicates, we have learnt pretty much everything about these groups in the first three or four chapters. from then on most of the novel involves bumbling attempts by the Magicians' to find Ssonea, and Sonea's increasingly unlikely escapes, (not helped by the fact that Canavan's lumbering style makes everyone appear extremely slow witted), not to mention a level of mistrust which becomes wearisome due to the fact it never changes. None of this served really too much purpose other than to pad out the overall narrative, and I found myself increasingly frustrated by the fact that neither plot appeared to be progressing or serving much purpose. When Sonea is finally caught by the Guild, we were presented with what to me was one of the nicest sections of the book, when the fatherly Rothen was able to slowly gain Sonea's trust and begin teaching her control of her magic, but even here Canavan cannot move on and there is still a doubt about whether Sonea will become a full member of the Guild or not. Add on to this an inept attempt at kidnap and manipulation that is doomed to failure by its very stupidity, and the hole book feels like riding a bike up a hill with a wheel barrow full of bricks strapped behind. One could virtually skip the entire first book, but for one particular scene which becomes relevant later. Usually, I do not mind plots that take their time in resolution, existing simply to show us more of the world, offer artistic contrast or simply explore one character a little deeper, Canavan however due to her total lack of emotive style and her very limited view of the overall world is reliant only upon the plot to hold the readers' interest, and unfortunately there isn't enough of one to bear all of the load. What I found most irksome about Magicians Guild however, is the character of Sonea herself. In the first chapter, she hurls a stone at one of the magicians who are engaged in driving the poor from the city, and we are told her history, a girl who used to be a member of a criminal street gang but was moved away by her parents to stop her getting into trouble. From this, I expected a character with a certain level of motivation, of inner resourcefulness, someone streetwise and tough enough to survive on the very literally mean streets. Sonea's stone throwing however, is probably the most affirmative action she takes throughout the entire book. Most of the plot sees her being dragged around from hiding place to hiding place by her friend Cerini, or by other members of The Thieves he asks to help. During the sections from her own perspective, she makes many somewhat analytic plans, about her future, her situation, and even her own feelings, but she seems to make no attempts at all to put these into action. This makes Sonea feel not only an extremely incapable character, but also cold and distant. We are told that she "doesn't know what she feels for Cery" or that "she worries about her aunt" but none of these emotional states are ever born out in either action, or even in words. Indeed, I ended up feeling quite sorry for Cery throughout much of the book, since he seemed to be absolutely devoted to a girl who knew exactly what he was feeling, but just sat there and analysed him without giving any indication of what she felt in return, despite the fact that he was throwing everything he had into his efforts to save her from the evil, if less than competent magicians. Sonea's inaction is also borne out by the fact that the closest thing the book has to a villain, albeit a rather inexpert one is defeated not by any actions on her behalf, but by a chance encounter that turned him in to the appropriate authorities. Thankfully, in The Novice, Sonea becomes a much more well rounded, emotional and active character, however that doesn't escape the fact that here she basically serves as nothing but a damsel in distress constantly manipulated by the actions of others. The other main character of the book, the magician Rothen I found much more engaging, since here Canavan's laboured, overly analytical style was perfect in portraying a kind natured academic who spends more of his time thinking and teaching than actually doing, but who (unlike Sonea), will get off his rear and take actions in his own interest (or that of those he cares about), when it is necessary. Unfortunately however, since most of Rothen's plot involves sitting and talking about the Guild's total inability to locate, or even speak to Sonea, he doesn't have much actual impact until that one decent section of book when he finally gets to act as Sonea's teacher (something which is also much expanded in the next two books). Though it does have its good points, world building, the complex relations betwene rich and poor and the distinct details of its setting, the drab, plodding style, poorly paced action and less than appealing protagonist made Magicians Guild a rather mediocre novel, obviously written by an author who had far too little plot to spread throughout the book. Were I to read the series again, I might well skip it entirely and continue on to the far better second and third entries, but as it stands for first time readers, if you are going to attempt Magicians Guild expect something of an aimless slog.

from The Netherlands

I really love this first book of the trilogy, and I think it has a great story which becomes even greater in the last book. I also really like the first chapter, the stone-throwing part did it, for sure.

from Nottingham, UK

I found this book to drawn out and too much put into describing every little detail to you. I got them all and wasted my money.

from Newcastle, England

This is a nice easy read for anyone looking for something to take them away. Not to many characters to get confused by and the plot is nice and simple. Thought it dragged a bit towards the end, but overall a good enjoyable read.

from Sweden

I really trying to get my doubters to read The Black Magician Trilogy. For some reason they have not picked up the book - I know once they do they will not be able to put it down!

from India

An excellent read! It was great and I consider her one of my favourite authors ever.

from Romania

It was a very exciting read, I finished the second book in a single day! The storytelling has a quick pace and the characters are enticing. It has surprising twists and unconventional characters. Overall, it is a very good series.

from UK

Very very exciting series. Gripping story telling and engaging characters. Quality fantasy.

from Bournemouth

The book took a while to get into but I really enjoyed it because of the massive differences between rich and poor. I liked the way they gradually brought things back from earlier in the book so that you began to make a mystery within the main plot. It never got boring to me but I can see where other readers may find it a little long.

from Unknown

Sonea and her friend Cery are slum dwells. Considered by all to be the lowest of the low, so much so that the King routinely purges the city of these undesirables every winter, driving them out using members of the Magicians' Guild to back up the soldiers. But this year something goes horribly wrong. Sonea throws a rock at the mages, an act of defiance everybody realizes is futile, but somehow her rock gets through the magical barrier! In the confusion a young boy is killed, mistakenly taken for the one who threw the rock, and Sonea runs for fear of her life. This is an excellent read, it's fairly fast paced and nothing is as it appears to be, which in my mind makes for a good story. I love cheering for the underdog and turning pages in anticipation of what happens next, this tale caters to both nicely. There is definite cliffhanger ending so I do recommend getting all 3 for back to back enjoyment.

from UK

I thought that this trilogy was fantastic and the best set of books that I have read in the last few years! I found that they all built up to the final book where you can't help but get swept away in the story. I thought the books were very well written and very descriptive. The only downside was my own interest in what else was happening this world, what about... what is... Hopefully Trudi will have answers to these questions in the prequel and sequel books. I am very much looking forward to reading them and can't wait until they are released!

8.5/10 from 13 reviews

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