Book Review: The Novice by Trudi Canavan

The Novice
Title: The Novice (Book 2 in The Black Magician Trilogy)
Author: Trudi Canavan
Website: http://www.trudicanavan.com
Social Media: FacebookGoodreads, Twitter
Publisher: Harper Voyager Fantasy

Blurb:
Alone among all the novices in the Magician’s Guild, only Sonea comes from lowly beginnings. Yet she has won powerful allies-including Lord Dannyl, newly promoted to Guild Ambassador. But Dannyl must now depart for the Elyne court, leaving Sonea at the mercy of the lies and malicious rumors her enemies are busy spreading…until the High Lord Akkarin steps in. The price of Akkarin’s support is dear, however, because Sonea, in turn, must protect his mysteries–and a secret that could lead a young novice mage deep into the darkness.
Meanwhile, Dannyl’s first order to resume High Lord Akkarin’s long-abandoned research into ancient magical knowledge is setting him on an extraordinary journey fraught with unanticipated peril-as he moves ever-closer to a future both wondrous…and terrible.

About The Author:
Trudi Canavan lives in a little house on a hillside, near a forest in the Melbourne suburb of Ferntree Gully in Australia. She has been making up stories about things that don’t exist for as long as she can remember and was amazed when her first published story received an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story in 1999. A freelance illustrator and designer, she also works as the designer and Art Director of Aurealis, a magazine of Australian fantasy and science fiction. You can email her at trudi@spin.net.au or find out more at www.spin.net.au/~trudi.

Things I Liked:
~Dannyl’s Journey – I loved reading about his external and internal journey. Out of all the characters, I think Dannyl’s character development was the most important and interesting.
~Mystery Murders and The High Lord – The High Lord is a fascinating character and I am most eager to figure out how all the pieces involving him fit together. I enjoyed the side plot with Lorlen (the guild Administrator) a lot more than Sonea’s plot and I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t fleshed out more in this book. However, I also feel as though the answer to the mystery murders was a little anti-climatic.

General Observations:
~Dorrian – I have mixed feelings about Dorrian as a love-interest. To me, he doesn’t serve a purpose and his existence isn’t a justifiable addition to the already large cast of interesting characters. Everything Sonia learns from Dorrian could have been taught to her by Rothen and the suggestion to challenge Regin in a dual could have been made to Sonia by Rothen and/or Cery
~Cery – I was disappointed that Cery went from a prominent and interesting secondary character in The Magicians’ Guild to a one-scene appearance in The Novice, especially since he has a lot more plot potential. Hopefully he’ll have a bigger role in The High Lord
~Regin – I felt the Regin side-plot was drawn out for far too long (he clearly has far too much time on his hands). In comparison to the Mystery Murders and Dannyl’s Ambassador Mission, the Regin side-plot wasn’t that interesting and I felt bogged the story down.

I really enjoyed The Magicians’ Guild, and while I felt that this book was mostly filler for The High Lord, I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the third installment of the Dark Magician Trilogy. I felt there should have been more action and the pacing of the book could have faster, however there was a lot of good foreshadowing and narrative set-up in The Novice.
I also think that, so far, The Dark Magician Trilogy is a good example of how to write a realistic heroine in the Fantasy genre. Sonea is a three-dimensional character with vices and virtues, strengths and vulnerabilities. Over the course of The Magician’s Guild and The Novice, Sonea battles male antagonists who use her low social status, gender and character vulnerabilities against her and yet she still manages to overcome these obstacles in a believable and well-written manner. Also Sonea’s love life doesn’t take center stage over the more interesting main plot and there are no love triangles so far.

5 comments

  1. Speaking as the queer in the house…

    Well, pretty much all the queer folk I know read these books only for the Dannyl/Tayend subplot. I’ve re-read this book a number of times and skipped everything else. (This is how desperate we are for representation!) It is by far, I’ve always found, the most interesting and appealing part of the trilogy. I do like that it is portrayed as complicated – that homophobia is a real and dangerous force, one not easily brushed aside. It’s too unfortunately common to see straight people writing queer characters as afraid of homophobia only for the homophobia to be non-existent, and that sends a horrible message to real-life queer people.

    (I have a comment to make about Canavan’s treatment in the sequel trilogy and how I reacted to it, but I can’t say it without spoilers, so I’ll leave it for the moment.)

    This said, there’s a few quotes in there about Dannyl’s discovery of Tayend’s and his sexuality that just don’t read well in 2014: we don’t need lines like “Tayend liked men” (after Dannyl heals him) to get that he’s gay. Not when the only way his sexuality could have been more obvious is if he shouted it from the rooftops while wearing a tutu and vomiting glitter. It also suffers from being another coming out/self-realisation story: in 2002 that would have been different and even a little unusual, but in 2014 we queers are rolling our eyes and complaining that all our inclusions in mainstream lit are about coming out. Which is fair and reasonable, given that there’s a lot more to being queer than just coming out or realising that we’re queer.

    I’ll be honest: I find Sonea a little boring, and I’m dissatisfied with the lack of women that aren’t Sonea (one predominant female character in a world of predominant men does not a feminist fantasy make even if the problems in that construct are acknowledged). I’d sooner read Lois McMaster Bujold (Paladin of Souls is so recommended) or Isobelle Carmody’s Legendsong books (so many female characters!). (Although, warning: the third book isn’t published yet. I read the first somewhere around 1999 or 2000, so I’ve been waiting quite a while.) I have a pretty hefty bias, though, in that I’m thoroughly over reading about cishets (cisgender heterosexual people, non-queers), so it takes incredible feminism to make me invested in these characters. I do think Sonea is a well-rounded character, but for me to really find her appealing she needs to exist in a more feminist world.

    I have something further to say, but I’ll wait until you’ve read the third book.

    • Thank you for commenting and stopping by, I know how busy you are and I’m super grateful you would take time out to visit my blog.

      I completely agree with you on the Token Female problem, it’s not possible for a book pass the Bechdel test when there’s only one female amongst a great big sausage fest. In the DMT thus far there’s only three female characters that could possibly be considered prominent. I’d like to think of The Dark Magician triology as a beginner’s guide for a YA series with a 13-15 demographic, In high school, I would have prefered to read the DMT rather than Minimum of Two by Tim Winton (don’t get me started on it, the soapbox will come out and nobody wants that). I think the problem with Sonea’s character is that’s she’s slowly merging into Everyman territory, however that could just be me.

      Unfortunately, I’ve only jut taken an interest in Trudi Canavan and Isobelle Carmody, so book-wise I have a lot of catching up to do. However, I will check out Paladin of Souls. Also when is that Queer Book-list of yours coming out? 😀

      • I hated the so-called Reading List at high school. The only year we didn’t read Boys Books About Boys Worrying About Boy Things With Other Boys (And Sometimes The Girl Love Interest) was Year 11 when we got to read Sally Morgan’s My Place and Tomorrow When the War Began. And I’d definitely rather have a kid pick up this series and connect with a female protag than, well, the rest.

        Have you read Garth Nix’s Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen? Good YA with a good balance of characters given the worldbuilding, and female lead characters.

        And for YA with female characters and feminism, Tamora Pierce. I may own two copies of some of her works because while I don’t think she’s always the best technical writer, she has amazing female characters.

        (These are all mainstream-fantasy genre recs.)

        But seriously, read Paladin of Souls. It’s about a forty-year-old mother setting out on the Hero’s Journey and has a good mix of male and female characters.

        I’m working on a draft of my queer fantasy recs! Maybe later this week? But I may need to do a couple – queer fantasy, contemporary queer genre fiction, mainstream feminist fantasy … oh, dear. Dear.

  2. Sounds great, I look forward to reading your Recommended Reading posts, as I’m sure there’s quite the list :D.

    Yeah, don’t get me started on High School reading lists, you’d have to get out the fire extinguisher and it wouldn’t be pretty, however I am a big fan of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy, did you know he’s bring out a fourth in the series? *Wild Fan-Girl Arm-Flailing* here’s the goodreads link:
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20662728-clariel?from_search=true

    I’ve heard of Tamora Pierce but I haven’t read any of her stuff, however I’ll look into it 🙂

    • I DID NOT KNOW THERE WAS A FOURTH BOOK COMING! AND NOT SO VERY LONG FROM NOW! EEEEE!

      Ahem. I mean, man. I read Sabriel before it was cool! Before it was even a series!

      (Did you ever read Shade’s Children? I read it ages ago and I’ve been trying to hunt down a copy.)

      If you like Nix you’ll like Pierce. I can’t see how you wouldn’t. If you want I can lend you most of her books. A truck may or may not roll up to your house tomorrow…

      You’re allowed to get started. I very much doubt I’ll be doing anything but nod with enthusiasm and wave a flag or two before we march on the people responsible for this travesty. Right?

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