The High Lord
by Trudi Canavan (Atom, 2005)
Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy comes to a close with The High Lord, which sets off at rapid pace, packed with action, adventure and, predictably enough for a fantasy series, romance.
While there is a hurried explanation of the story so far, all three books are closely woven together. Reading The Magicians’ Guild and The Novice before The High Lord is highly recommended. As the third and final book begins, one finds Sonea, the former slum girl, under the guardianship of none other than High Lord Akkarin of the Magicians’ Guild. One would expect her to be a favourite of all her teachers and popular with her classmates. However, the young woman is burdened with a secret of Akkarin’s, one she must protect at all costs or risk losing the people she holds dear.
Though Sonea has been grudgingly accepted by the other novices, she still finds herself friendless and alone. Unable to converse with her former mentor, isolated from her contemporaries, and terrified of her powerful guardian, she fears that the secret she holds could destroy the land.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Dannyl in Elyne continues his research into the High Lord’s travels and tries to find out more about the ancient magic he was interested in. When reports come in of a group of rebel magicians in Elyne, Dannyl accidentally stumbles upon the answer. It was black magic that Akkarin was seeking!
Back in Imardin, in the Magicians’ Guild, Sonea is a virtual prisoner of the High Lord, and learns more of Akkarin’s secret. Unsure of what to believe and what not to, she realizes that both alternatives are equally terrifying.
The trilogy spirals towards a thrilling climax as Sonea sees her future crumbling around her and she has to make a tough choice, both for herself, the future of her land, and for those she loves. Her friend Cery of the Thieves finds himself embroiled in a hunt for a serial killer loose in the streets of Imardin. Dannyl juggles love and duty. Rothen watches helplessly as he finds Sonea being manipulated by the High Lord. And all the while the enemy draws closer, with no one the wiser as to what is true and what is not.
Altogether, the Black Magician series is a thoroughly enjoyable read, even though there are a tad too many coincidences and the plot a little convenient at times. Sonea is a likeable character, and so are her friends, including Rothen, Dannyl and Cery. Akkarin is aloof and mysterious and ruthless, even though we see a different side of him at times. The author plans another series based in Kyralia in the future, and it will be interesting to see the consequences of the events that happen in the Black Magician trilogy.
It is a pity, however, that apart from Sonea there are no other major female characters. Though a very different world from our own, it seems to subscribe to the same gender stereotypes! That said, for fantasy fans of all ages, Trudi Canavan’s trilogy is certainly worth reading, both for some remarkable characters and an unusual plot.