The Magician's Apprentice

Trudi Canavan
The Magician's Apprentice Cover

The Magician's Apprentice


The Magician's Apprentice is considered #0.5 in Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician Trilogy. It was written after, but serves as a set up for The Magicians' Guild, which I have not read. It mainly follows the story of Tessia, a young healer apprenticed to her father, who discovers her magical abilities when she deflects the advances of a Sachakan mage. She becomes apprenticed to Lord Dakon, joining his apprentice Jayan, who initially disdains the fact that a he must share his education with a woman.

There are two other characters who occasionally get to tell their story, namely Stara, a Sachakan noble daughter who is forced into an unwanted marriage in order to produce an heir for her father, and Hanara, the slave of the Sachakan mage who tried to take Tessia. While I appreciated the effort to reveal the other sides of the story, these characters weren't particularly strong enough in their telling. I'm not sure where Hanara's story is supposed to lead, though Stara is obviously meant to connect this prequel to Canavan's other series, The Traitor's Spy.

The use of magic is one of the most interesting aspects of this book. Through Tessia's training, we get a peek into the process of how magic works in Canavan's world. I was surprised by the idea of magical wars entirely fought by mages. Unfortunately, when the battles are fought in the story, they are very anti-climactic. In fact, I had to reread several of them, believing I must have missed something because they were so brief. Something happens, mages on one side or the other die, but despite all the descriptions that go into Tessia's training, we get no insight on the battle magic. Then certain magical items and practices - that I assume have significance in the future books - are introduced like deus ex machina.

As the war with the Sachakans rages on, things really started to unravel for me. Characters suddenly seemed to be forced into certain roles with no previous indication of why that would be so. Along with the magical elements, several guilds and factions are mentioned, and several relationships are forced awkwardly into place. All of this comes piling in toward the end in a jumble that made me feel like I should have read the other books in order to at least appreciate the significance of these things within the greater picture. I didn't need to read the other books to understand what they were or understand what was going on in this book, but things might have held more meaning, rather than feeling like a sudden rush of elements meant to connect the past to the present.

I'm sure the rest of the series is quite interesting and I did appreciate the glimpse I got of it here, but I sense that this backstory would have better served as a wiki entry instead.