Book: The Magicians’ Guild (The Black Magician Trilogy Book 1) Review

“Why so polite? It looks like you have something to hide..”

Author: Trudi Canavan

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Age: YA+

Released: 4th March 2012 (UK Version)

The book starts off with slum’s ‘dwell’ Sonea discovering that she has magical powers after throwing a rock at a magician’s head. Hilariously, she knocks him out, but also sets the Magicians chasing after her.

Sonea is a naturally manifested Magician, and is dangerous because she won’t have control over her own powers. The story follows the two sides, as Sonea runs away from danger, and the Magicians’ Guild trying to find her for her own safety.

Warning! Contains spoilers!




The first half of the book follows Sonea as she runs away from the Magicians. Helped by her friend Cery, and his Thieves contacts, she’s trying to avoid being punished, or killed.

The Magicians’ Guild, meanwhile, is sending out search parties to help find this girl… and then invite her to stay with them.

Now that the reader is aware that Sonea won’t be harmed when she’s captured, it’s an agonising journey over 200 pages.

Sonea hides underground, in room after room, not confronting anyone and failing at magic. A repetitive story structure develops, and nothing moves forward for a long time. It’s pretty boring.

The Magicians seems to be blindingly incompetent at searching their own city, because even when they turn it upside down to find one girl, they still struggle.

The second half of the book is spent at the Guild when Sonea is finally caught. Her caretaker is Rothen, a wise, respected Magician, and his clumsy assistant Dannyl.

Following this new imprisonment, the reader is now subjected to 200 pages of info dumps. Everything you need to know about the Guild in order to pass an exam.

The Guild draws comparison with Hogwarts for being a place where young magical novices come to learn, however has none of the charm, or vividness. Everything is lacking in description, purpose or is just stilted.

The Guild also suffers from generic overload. You would think that there would be more unique sense of dress than just “robes”, and apparently everyone is happy to colour-coded. Healers wear green, Warriors wear red, Alchemists wear blue. It screams lazy.

The blandness also extends to everyone’s mannerisms. The Magicians may have been raised polite, but they all speak alike, as if they have no different vocabulary or personalities.

Rothen can be replaced by any of the other magicians you come across, regardless of the age or gender.

The book suffers from the the gush of names that are thrown at you. The generic-ness makes it hard to remember those names, and the conclusion of the story is a name-frothing mess.

Who is who?

The story drags on for ages, and things get sped up only in the last 50 pages. The main baddie in the story is a token stuck-up guy, who doesn’t want Sonea to be welcomed into the Guild, because he doesn’t like poor people. Yup, that’s it.

Akkarin, the Guild’s High Lord, is actually an interesting character, but spends most of time watching, smiling crookedly (excuse me, isn’t that description from Twilight?) and killing random people at night time. His story arc is the only one linking to the next book, and is the only reason that I would consider purchasing The Novice.

One thing that will drive readers insane is Canavan’s overuse of the word ‘chuckle’. Every magicians is described with this word when they come across Sonea.

Another major complaint about the series is it’s habit of uselessly naming objects and animals with nonsensical names. It’s not just a wolf, it’s a ‘limek’ or instead of grapes it’s ‘vare’.

Why not just use the proper words for things? It’s a cheap screen of atmosphere.

Overall, I can’t tell if the debut novel is flawed, or if Trudi Canavan is just a poor writer with a dragged-out, simple story to tell.

Rated – 2/5 Drags on each point, poor pacing, poor characters, poor setting. Good for newbie fantasy readers that like magic only.

Read the review for the next book in the series!

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1 Comment

  1. Kirsty

     /  June 17, 2013

    Whilst I may be biased as I do really love this series I feel the need to point out some fairly poignant issues. You liken this book to both Harry Potter and Twilight, seeming to suggest that it pulls both story lines and descriptions from them (the reference to the guild being like Hogwarts and an Edward Cullen smile). However, this book was written some 4 years before the first Harry Potter and many years before Twilight. It could not be that the author is basing ideas or descriptions on books that had not been completed yet. You also mention that the alchemists wear blue – they do not. The administrator wears blue and the alchemists wear purple. Maybe a small mistake, however, it occurs to me that this is something that you should have known and leads me to query how thoroughly you read the book (it mentioned more than a few times). Also, how is wearing coloured uniform any different to wearing a school uniform or any other uniform for that matter. Police officers wear a different uniform to doctors and nurses and yet this is somehow more acceptable that other colours? Rankings within police or army are signified by stripes or a difference in symbols – how does this differ from simply changing colours?


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