Sinéad asked for this book for Christmas, and when she got it, I tried to encourage her to have it read before I went back to London, so that we could do swapsies (she was getting The Testing) before I went home.
As it turns out, that didn’t work. There was also a series of incidents including our sister and various trips between London and Ireland which meant that I didn’t get my hands on the Magician’s Apprentice until I was home for Sinéad’s birthday, which was the last time I was home. I had to read Before I Die while I was in Leixlip (because I’m not allowed take it out of Ireland, or indeed, our house), but I was then quite looking forward to this book, as I had been waiting for it since December of last year, and it was now June.
In any case, eventually I did get on to it, and thus this post:
The Magician’s Apprentice is a prequel novel, set in the same world as The Black Magician and The Traitor Spy trilogies (reviewed here) – but written between the two of them.
It tells the story of Tessia, daughter of a local healer, and his assistant, although she knows she won’t be able to enter the Healers’ Guild, due to her gender. Having discovered that she is a natural magician, she is apprenticed to Lord Dakon, and begins to delight in the world of opportunities that magic offers to you – all the while never losing her interest in healing. But events conspire against her, and Tessia soon becomes caught up in events much bigger than her previous village life, as war threatens, and rival magicians fight, and lead to an act of sorcery so brutal, its effects will be felt for generations.
That last line is lifted directly from the blurb of the book, and I take issue with it, because its actual occurrence in the book is more of an addendum, a postscript than anything else.
In any case! I think The Magician’s Apprentice is probably one of Canavan’s best books – it’s a standalone, although set in the same world as the aforementioned trilogies, which means that it does stand alone, despite being set in the same world.
I think reading this book after I read The Traitor Spy trilogy was possibly a disadvantage for me. It maintained a sort of semi-historical aura to it, but where the Traitors’ formation was, for me, a given, it might have had more impact had I not yet read The Traitor Spy trilogy.
While this book was quite good, and quite enjoyable, the fact of a prequel, and a historical prequel at that, is that it’s all a little, well, predictable.
I know what happened during the Sachakan war. I know what happened to the Storestone. I know that the invention of healing magic was something which Kyralian magicians achieved, which Sachakan mages didn’t. And, when Tessia showed such an interest in healing from the very beginning, it was pretty obvious to add two and two. I know also that the Guild must have been formed at some point, so it wasn’t hard to see that happening either, and similarly the Traitors.
Aside from these things, though, I did enjoy the book. Tessia was an interesting and compelling character, even if she did seem cut from the very same cloth as Sonea (even as much as being a natural). While Canavan writes the same character over and over as her protagonist, it’s still an interesting character. Tessia differed from Sonea though, as her innate power wasn’t as much an advantage, as magicians were using higher magic then. Of course, she was still in some ways a special snowflake, with her stubborn insistence on healing.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. Canavan’s books do all have a similar feel – not just being set in the same world, but her characters and archetypes repeat. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does get a bit samey.
Overall, a solidly enjoyable book, and a nice dip back into the world of Kyralia.