The Magician’s Guild – Trudi Canavan

20 12 2010

The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician Trilogy, #1)The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Seeing as the story revolves around a pre-teen child who has no knowledge of her magical abilities but ends up being whisked away to a magicians guild and ends up being pretty much the top of the pile there were always going to be similarities drawn between this book and the Harry Potter series.

I really can understand how on the face of things it all seems a bit of a coincidence. Especially when in the second book of the trilogy we discover that the real enemies were believed defeated years ago but are back in secret and it will take huge sacrifice to defeat them…

Ok so I lied –  the similarities aren’t just on the surface. This really does read in parts like a mild re-write of some of the HP books.

But that didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment, not just of this book but of the trilogy as a whole. The story is different enough that you don’t feel like you should just be replacing the name Sonea with that of HP himself and for the most part is well written, if a tad simplistic.

The class issues that Canavan brings up are a little bit clumsy and play out much as expected but even so it is a nice touch and helps keeps things fresh when otherwise you could be about to swap the Magicians Guild for Hogwarts.

There are however two big problems for me that keep me from scoring this book higher and unfortunately they carry on pretty much through out the latter installments of the trilogy.

Firstly there is the characterisation which is a little bit lacking on occasion.
The principal characters are surprisingly two-dimensional and formulaic and you never really find yourself building any attachment to them or indeed giving two hoots as to whether they all die in a fire.

This is a real shame as there is plenty of potential to really build some tension between the main protagonists right from the start.

 One prime example of this is the relationship between Sonea and her friends in the slums; it is obvious that Cery, one of the thieves, has strong feelings for Sonea but rather than build this up into anything too deep or emotive Canavan has the character dismiss his own feelings and cast them aside quite casually over the space of two or three paragraphs.

The second big issue that I have with this series is that I never really get a sense of immersion into the world the story is set in.

The slums and the guild are outlined reasonably well but even they are rather thin on detail and everywhere else we venture is so sketchily outlined that you are squinting to see it.

I am not asking for Tolkien like levels of detail about every blade of grass crushed underfoot but I would like to feel some sense of connection.

If I had to give an example of a fantasy writer who manages to pull this off to perfection it would have to be Terry Pratchett; on one hand I haven’t a clue what colour the second daffodil to the left of the buttercup and indeed don’t want to know was but on the other hand I can walk the streets of Ankh Morpork in my head without having to fill in huge chunks of blank canvas.

When I read that Sam Vimes stops and buys a sausage in a bun off of C.M.O.T Dibbler I can not only see Sator Square where they are standing I can smell the sausage.

In contrast to this I can read that some Bolhouse (a pub in Sonea’s world) is about to be destroyed by marauding Sachakan magicians (the bad magicians) and I really couldn’t give two figs. I haven’t a clue about the place in question other than the mere fact that it is a kind of pub and that they better have insurance. 

I am probably coming off sounding more displeased with this series than I mean to; it really isn’t bad but I feel that it lacks depth and a bit of originality and I am hoping that Canavan’s next installments will give me a bit less Potter and a bit more sense of her world and what she wants the reader to see.

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2 responses

21 12 2010
Her Idealisticness

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