Thursday, February 13, 2020

Trudi Canavan - The Magicians' Guild

"We should expect this young woman to be more powerful than our average novice, possibly even more powerful than the average magician."
This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work-—until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders...and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield.
What the Magicians' Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.

Comment: According to my notes, I got this book around 2010 or 2011 which means it has been in the pile for close to ten years but, well, I read some comments here and there through the years and the story never felt as appealing as the moment I decided to buy it so I postponed it. This year, I decided to just get it over with but now that I finished, I can understand why I wasn't very eager to read it sooner.

In this fantasy novel, we meet Sonea, she is a young girl who discovers she has magical powers but she can't seem to control them. In the meantime, her actions during a small conflict in the city, which caused a boy to be killed by a magician, catch the attention of the magician's guild and some of them, namely lord Rothen, want to find her and help her with her powers.
The problem is that usually the magicians come from rich or educated families and not the dwells or the poor, a category that labels Sonea, and she tries to evade them fearing she might be severely punished. To help her are some other less than appreciated people from the dwells who try to deceive the magicians and hide Sonea but eventually she is caught and then she has a choice to make...

What I just wrote is quite vague, doesn't explain any of the intriguing details of the world created by the author but is a rather simple summary of the first part of the book.
It's usually a given first books in series or trilogies have a lot of information to set the reader on an idea of what everything is about but in this case, nothing really happens for the first half except magicians chasing Sonea and other guys helping her hide.
Sure, this is the way things are but I don't think the writing was that special to make this sound exhilarating and was, instead for me, a little repetitive and boring. 

The story is quite simple, it's centered on Sonea, apparently a brilliant new magician but without much knowledge nor control over what her powers are and who, probably, will become an expert, an important person in her world or something like that in the bigger scheme of things.
In this book, though, she feels too young and not just because of age and lack of train; we don't have much on her personality but what we have makes her seem very naive and a little childish. I suppose this is intentional, so that her development int he following books feels even more astounding, but for this book alone, everything connected to her felt too basic.

Since I didn't feel much empathy nor emotional connection to the heroine, I focused my interest in the secondary characters Rothen and Dannyl but, of course, they are part of a story where another character plays a part in the background. When that apparent "bad guy" is caught, his demise wasn't spectacular and I can't really fault it because he was more annoying than villain to me but it did leave me thinking about the importance this had to have for the book. I don't think there was any real intention behind this book besides presenting characters.

In fact, the whole story feels so simple that all the time spent on developing it feels like it wasn't used properly. If the idea was to focus on the traditional themes of good/innocence vs evil/greed, then this story failed because the focus was always on other situations and when the end of the book is finally here, nothing surprising happens. I think it might have been nice to focus this more on Sonea's journey through learning and through romance, perhaps? More on her surroundings and experiences with magic and her powers, with fellow colleagues, with her mentors... it seems the next books will feature these things more but comments I've read don't make me eager to try the books, though.

Thinking on this globally, the story is not bad and many other series with "special" people doing amazing things have flourished. However, the execution, the idea of it and how it was developed were not as emotional nor layered as they could by the author to make this a story impossible to stop reading. In the end, for me this was readable but not exciting and despite a few possibilities hinted by comments on the other two installments being alluring, I don't feel like going through this narrative style again to search for goodies among the boring parts.
Grade: 5/10

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