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The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

Trudi Canavan lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been making up stories about people and places that don’t exist for as long as she can remember. Her first short story, “Whispers of the Mist Children”, received an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story in 1999. Soon after, her bestselling Black Magician Trilogy was published, followed by another trilogy, Age of the Five. In 2006 she was offered a seven-figure advance to write the prequel and sequel to the Black Magician Trilogy. The prequel, The Magician’s Apprentice, won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2009. 

Set hundreds of years before the events of The Magicians’ Guild, The Magician’s Apprentice is the new novel set in the world of Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy. 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 long hours of study and self-discipline also offer more opportunities than she had ever hoped for, and an 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.

But along with the excitement and privilege, Tessia is about to discover that her magical gifts bring with them a great deal of responsibility. For great danger looms on the horizon for Tessia and her world.

As usual I am impressed by Trudi’s characters. The protagonist, Tessia, is funny, intelligent and strong – she holds her own in the male-dominated world of the magicians as apprentice to Lord Dakon. It was great to read a female protagonist who didn’t swoon over every boy she met as well! Her resemblance to Sonea (the protagonist in the Black Magician Trilogy), however, is striking. Both are natural magicians who specialise in healing and both come from humble backgrounds and have to struggle to gain acceptance by others. I think it would have been nice to read a different type of character.

 Jayan, Dakon’s other apprentice, annoyed me at first because of his close-minded nature and his reluctance to accept Tessia, but he slowly grew on me until he was my favourite supporting character. The most memorable character, in my mind, is the Sachakan slave Hanara, who goes through extreme situations and has the most tragic storyline of all. 

In many ways this book is predictable – we know what is going to happen because it’s a prequel to the Black Magician Trilogy so the overall plot comes as no surprise. One of the main attractions of the book is to see the birth and development of the ideas that shape the world of the Black Magician Trilogy. While it is also interesting to read about the Sachakan side of the war and get a sense of their politics and world view through the eyes of Stara, a Sachakan woman, I feel this aspect is somewhat under-developed and random. I believe the Sachakan viewpoint is a set up for the events in The Traitor Spy trilogy, which is set after the Black Magician Trilogy but in this book it feels out of place.

The Magician’s Apprentice is a great prequel to the Black Magician Trilogy that expands on events that are hinted in it. A must read for  those who have read and enjoyed the Black Magician Trilogy.

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