Book: The High Lord (The Black Magician Trilogy Book 3) Review

“Ending on a magical note”

Author: Trudi Canavan

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Age: YA+

Released: 4th March 2010 (UK Version)

The final book of the The Black Magician Trilogy continues the story of Sonea, a young streetgirl-turned-magician that now lives with the most powerful magician the Guild has ever seen.

Unknown to the rest of the world, Akkarin, who practices dark magic in secret, is actually holding her hostage.

How many others will suffer before his secret is out? And how does this link to to an epic war between neighbouring countries of magicians?

Warning! Contains spoilers!

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If you aren’t familiar with the previous book’s plot-points, then you’ll be pleased to hear this book dives into almost 50 pages of info dumps, recapping everything that happened in the previous two books.

If like me, you read this book very closely afterwards The Novice, then prepare to hear very mundane and tedious conversations that relay everything you already know.

Like the previous books, there are two halves which eventually relay the entire story.

In the first half, Sonea is still afraid of Akkarin and jumping at shadows. The most powerful novice is forced to avoid her new magician mentor Akkarin, for fear of unleashing his wrath onto the rest of the Guild. Akkarin makes life pretty easy for Sonea, and thus boring for the reader, by being very mysterious and hardly showing his face.

Alongside this, some side-characters reveal rumours about rogue magicians and strange ritualistic murders taking place. Akkarin is the natural suspect of all these dark magic deaths, but he eventually comes out as the good guy.

Working with Cery, who is Sonea’s long lost friend from the first book and now a prestigious Thief, Akkarin uncovers Sachakans invading Imardin. Playing somewhat of a vigilante, Akkarin takes on these rogue magicians by himself, keeping his dark secret to himself. That is, until Sonea is led by the noose to these revelations, and she naturally wants to be part of the (non-)action.

The rogue magicians are from the decrepit wastelands of the northern country of Sachaka. Akkarin spent time there on his research for dark magic, but was captured, which eventually led him to learn black magic to escape.  Completely feeling this sob-story, Sonea and Akkarin team up to sneak around some more and kill some (one) rogue magicians.

There’s a somewhat of a budding romance between the two, which fully blooms later in the book. It’s an uneasy topic because of the age-difference. Sonea is around 19, and Akkarin is estimated to be around 35 years old. Unfortunately, the passage of time isn’t conveyed very well in the books, and readers may well assume Sonea is still around 16, the same age as the first book. She certainly hasn’t matured enough, or changed her actions, to convey age.

Another romance that lines through the book is Cery, and the mysterious Sachakan assassin Savara. This suffers from the same reason as Sonea and Akkarin’s relationship. Cery is constantly described a short, youthful and boyish, which are at odds with Savara’s voluminous and womanly curves.

One couple which harmonise very well are Dannyl and Tayend, who are in a same-sex relationship. In the review for The Novice I mentioned that Trudi Canavan shies away from describing their relationship with any kind of explicitness, and it is still suffering in The High Lord. Thankfully they have been able to hold hands as a couple, but Canavan is still playing curve ball with the pair. She gives them minimum screen time, and they spend more time looking worriedly each other, rather than conveying emotion.

In the second half, the book creeps along, with little urgency, until Akkarin and Sonea are caught practicing black magic and are expelled from the Guild.

Akkarins’s warnings about the Sachakin invaders are ignored, and he and Sonea spend time wandering the Sachakan wastes in a large circle.

Just when things are looking tough, the pair head back to the Guild for an incredibly slow and fragmented showdown.

It’s not an all-out action and magic brawl, rather everything gets thrown into the air and lands very slowly over the course of a lot of chapters. Everyone hurries along at their own pace, and no-one seems coordinated, instead spending a luxurious amount of time hiding, or running, or distracting.

If they are the greatest magicians in the world, with more knowledge and more intelligence, not to mention numbers, than Sachakans, well, they didn’t show it.

A key problem to the slowness may have been the relatively new character of the King of the Allied Lands, who has preciding powers over all magicians. He may have been mentioned in the previous books, but makes his few brief appearances here. In every scene, the King completely undermines the Higher Magicians, which the reader will recognise and prefer as an authority. It’s a shame that a wireframe character is allowed to have so much power in the book, simply for the sake of a title.

Overall, the book lasts too long to make a point, and spends a lot of time with long-winded and inane conversations. A lot of page space is given to internal wallowing from the characters, and Sonea takes no initiative as the lead.

Akkarin, as a complementing character, should have been given more humane characteristics. He suffers from a “woe-betide-me” angle that doesn’t seem to comply with his incredibly powerful lifestyle. He is also shrouded in too much mystery, until a convenient time.

Good news that Cery shows up. He was one of Sonea’s friends and a pivotal character in the first book. After failing to appear in the second book, it seemed like Trudi Canavan wanted to introduce new characters, and bin her old ones. Cery’s story arc wasn’t exciting, but the career choice was expected and consistent with what the reader was told, which is good.

Once again, I have to criticise the cover of the book for being an unknown entity. Who is the wizard in the blue robes that appears to attacking?

The man and woman could be Sonea and Akkarin, but my imagination is truly stretched to accept that at this point.

The “showdown” seems a lot to take in, and the reader is given a whole list of problems and no solutions. None of the characters come up with any definitive plans to get to their conclusion, and the pacing suffers from the “lack of bite”.

It took a long time to read, incidentally a long time to review, just because there were no hooks to the story. The characters moved at their own pace, with no regard to entertainment. So, as a reader, it was easy to abandon them for a while.

The absolute ending of the book will leave some readers with a bitter taste. It’s a little cliched and more than a little dated. Personally, I won’t be picking up any of the other Trudy Canavan books, so the pregnancy is another failed hook.

As a quick note: I’m still not convinced that this is “Epic Fantasy”, despite it being marketed as that in UK book stores. It has always felt more like a overly long YA fiction.

Rated – 3/5 Over-anticipation and lack of excitement lets down this book. Overly long conclusion.

Read the review for the previous book in the series!

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