Book Review: The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan

The Magician’s Guild is the first book in The Black Magician Trilogy.  I stumbled across the entire trilogy by accident at a book sale, and I must say that I haven’t been able to put these books down since I picked them up.  In fact, I am already half way through the second book in the series, but thought I had better review the first one before I get any further!

The story is set around a young girl named Sonea.  She is what is referred to as a ‘dwell’; an inhabitant of the slums of Imardin.  They are the poorest of the poor, and the rest of the city believe them all to be thieves and criminals.

Every year, the magicians from the Guild purge the streets of the city clean, doing their best to remove as many of these dwells as possible.  Each year, they are met by groups of young dwells, who frustrated by the way they are treated, do their best to hinder the purge.

When the story begins, Sonea finds herself caught up in this act of defiance.  There is nothing that these dwells can do to prevent the purge from going ahead; there is nothing they can do harm the magicians, or even make them think twice about what it is they are doing.  All they can do is create a little disruption and throw a few stones.

Although Sonea doesn’t want to participate, and she has been instructed by her aunt and uncle to avoid it at all costs, Sonea, like many of the dwells, is feeling desperately frustrated by the way the poor of Imardin are treated.  That very morning, as part of the purge, her family is evicted from an overcrowded slum dwelling, and understandably Sonea is angry.  As she throws her own stone at the magicians, her anger and emotions flow over.  Although she expects nothing to happen, only that her stone will bounce of the shield the magicians use to protect themselves, something extraordinary happens.  The stone passes through the shield and strikes one of the magicians on the head.  He is subsequently rendered unconscious.  This can only mean one thing, something that alarms the magicians greatly; Sonea, a dwell, possesses magic.

This one small act, precipitates a city-wide manhunt.  Sonea goes into hiding, but there are only a handful of people she can trust to help keep her safe.  As the net closes around her, the magic that she has somehow unleashed within herself, becomes uncontrollable.  The magicians say they can help her, but can she trust them?  She has never seen or heard that they have ever helped a dwell before, so why should they want to help her now?  And yet, if she doesn’t accept their help, the power within her that she has no control over, might destroy the very people she loves.

The Magician’s Guild is a refreshing fantasy book.  There are no monsters or demons here, only a young girl, who is as confused as everyone else as to why she is all of sudden in possession of powerful magic, magic she can’t control and doesn’t understand.    Issues of class divide and social status are explored, as are issues of turning your back on where you have come from in order to truly understand and accept who you are.  Friendships are tested, opinions challenged and questions of trust and loyalty are asked.

This is a great book and I am certain that I will read it again.  The author can spin an engaging narrative, one that ensures that if the reader has to put the book down, it is begrudged.

I really enjoyed The Magicians’ Guild, the characters were engaging, the setting felt authentic and the storyline kept me interested until the very last page. I am certainly looking forward to reading book #2 in the series.

4 out 5 stars

(My Goodreads review of The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan)