The Magician’s Apprentice – Hardcover
Book store sale
A predictable 3 out of 5
In the remote village of Mandryn, Tessia serves as assistant to her father, the village Healer. Her mother would rather she found a husband. But her life is about to take a very unexpected turn.
When the advances of a visiting Sachakan mage get violent, Tessia unconsciously taps unknown reserves of magic to defend herself. Lord Dakon, the local magician, takes Tessia under his wing as an apprentice.
The hours are long and the work arduous, but soon and exciting new world opens up to her. There are fine clothes and servants – and, to Tessia’s delight – regular trips to the great city of Imardin.
However, Tessia is about to discover that her magical gifts bring with them a great deal of responsibility. For a storm is approaching that threatens to tear her world apart.
Over the course of the years, I’ve been making an effort to collect books in genres outside of just horror. Surprisingly and despite dabbling in the genre, Fantasy took a back seat in my reading adventures. Therefore, Trudi Canavan’s The Magician’s Apprentice felt like a great way to bring fantasy closer to the forefront of my reading goal.
Intention and Practice, however, are two different things. While the book does a wonderful job of exploring the genre in terms of characters, setting, and worldbuilding, there were other aspects that I had me put the book down in frustration a few times. Mainly:
- The predictability was sometimes palpable.
- I worked out that much of what characters thought and said, even in speculation, came to pass later.
- There was a lot of unnecessary switching of characters between sections, which led to unneeded “cliffhanger” chapter breaks.
- The magic, sadly, had no real depth .
I do think this was, perhaps, due to the fact that this prequel was written after the main trilogy and so certain facts and histories are clear for Canavan and her readers. But new readers like myself, missed a depth which might be present in The Black Magician trilogy.
We follow Tessia, a promising young healer living under the authority of magician Lord Dakon. Her father is the town Healer, passing knowledge to his daughter with an insatiable appetite for healing knowledge; this factor is the reason Tessia finds herself at Lord Dakon’s estate. After an unpleasant encounter with a visiting Sachakan magician, Tessia discovers her magical ability and the joys and danger of being an apprentice.
Tessia begins as the main protagonist of the story, but it feels like she fades off to secondary character status by the end of it, with ties to the story rather than the driving force. While she’s present for much of the unfolding events, she’s not present in every situation, which relies on other characters to provide the details she wouldn’t know otherwise.
The flitting perspectives became more obvious towards the middle-to-end of the book, which again, had me put the book down when an unnecessary break in the story gave a perspective that didn’t have a deeper impact to the unfolding story. Those final chapters felt very much like “necessary events prevalent to the next book” and the lives of people I’d spent all this time reading about, were simply tied up and discarded to the histories. It felt very anti-climatic.
Overall, I did enjoy the story. It involved discovery of new powers, using said powers in interesting situations, and a “main” character I wanted to invest in. Lord Dakon, Jayan, Takado, and the host of characters making an appearance each have distinct, viable personalities to round off a cast and story that is entertaining.
Praise must be given to Canavan’s writing itself. The first sentence, ‘There was no fast and painless way to perform an amputation, Tessia knew.’ and right through the opening paragraph, the story opens vividly into the life of a healers helper. There is no wasting of words as each description, sentence, and expression drives the story forward, and at the same time, brings character traits to life.
Unfortunately, its this same crisp writing that turns the writing (and thus the story) predictable. When no words are wasted, then thoughts characters have (even in conjecture) must have relevance to pushing the story forward – as it proved far too often.
I enjoyed a lot of the worldbuilding around The Magician’s Apprentcice. The towns and people felt real, the exploration of race, culture, politics, and social standing became part of the reading without distraction, and overall tied together solidly.
I was looking forward to a bit more in the magic system. There was more time spent on how it felt using magic, and the result of its use, but none of the little details. On its own, this isn’t an issue – when there’s an intense magical battle between powerful magicians, the missing details make for a lackluster spectacle.
Following Tessia, Jayan, and Drakon through these early days was still a lot of fun. Learning about the different races, histories, and moral differences made up for the lack of “spectacular” magic I was expecting.
More than anything, the book starts strong and ends abruptly. I can understand how establishing an existing history into a single novel can be difficult. Perhaps if the book had included the rest of the detail into a prologue, I’d feel a little better about it.
There’s also too many little details I can’t write without spoilers, so I’ll end with this; I hope The Black Magician, written before this “prologue”, reads better and deeper into this really fascinating world.
The Magician’s Apprentice was first published 23 February 2009.
Did you know: In early 2006 Trudi signed a seven-figure contract with Orbit to write the prequel and sequel to the Black Magician Trilogy. The prequel, The Magician’s Apprentice, won the Best Fantasy Novel category of the Aurealis Awards.
Trudi Canavan was born in Kew, Melbourne and grew up in Ferntree Gully, a suburb at the foothills of the Dandenongs. In 1999 she won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story with “Whispers of the Mist Children”. In the same year she was granted a writers residency at Varuna Writers’ Centre in Katoomba, New South Wales.
Great review. “Establishing an existing history into a single novel can be difficult” is an understatement. Worldbuilding is a fine line, and I find that fantasy writers far too often give too much, than too little. As you mention, you put the book down once when it got distracted with world details that weren’t important for the narrative at hand.