“Invasion, chaos, exile, and revelations.”
So it comes to an end, I was starting to think I had lost my capacity to finish a novel after my last two failings. But here we are, the Black Magician Trilogy is done at last! (though there are other novels that sort of follow on which I haven’t read) I enjoyed this revisit. The Magicians’ Guild was the simplest narratively but a good welcome into the world. The Novice is the most interesting in my mind as Sonea, our protagonist, is learning about magic and facing difficult odds. The High Lord is a good concluding novel, but I have tiny niggles with it.
In this third instalment, a year has passed and Sonea is no longer tormented by her classmates after her duel with Regin. Akkarin, the High Lord and leader of the Magician’s Guild is as distant as ever. Until (dun dun dun) he starts to reveal secrets to her, both his own and things long forgotten and hidden by the University. Sonea’s understanding of ‘black magic’ starts to change as does her understanding of Akkarin himself. The novel is mostly built on revealing secrets and creating a rich elaborate back story for Akkarin and for ‘black magic’ itself. You’ve been waiting long enough for it folks and the High Lord finally delivers on the trilogy’s namesake.
While all of this is going on Sonea’s childhood friend Cery has been busy building a status for himself within the Thieves. Now a Thief himself, he is set on the task of finding the murderers that have persistently been entering the city and wreaking havoc. This isn’t all that happens to Cery though as he meets a mysterious woman who starts to aid him on his mission. (Because there would have to be a mysterious woman, wouldn’t there?)
Dannyl is set on the task in Elyne to root out a group of ‘rogue’ magicians, nobles who are set on learning magic outside the Guild’s instruction – which is very dangerous. To do this he must leak compromising information about himself as rumours to provide the nobles with leverage. His task ultimately leads him back to Imardin, just in time for Akkarin’s secret’s to be revealed to the entire guild.
A lot happens in the High Lord, a lot of what you’ve waited to find out more about for two novels. The Magicians Guild reveals a tiny snippet of where the trilogy ultimately leads and the Novice is a confused mess of Akkarin being the bad guy. But does it feel satisfying? Well… sort of… I feel it drags a little mostly because Akkarin’s backstory takes such a long time in this trilogy to be revealed. It’s a whopping long wait to suddenly pitch this guy as not the bad guy and I’m not entirely sure if I’m convinced by how quickly Sonea has a change of heart on black magic and on Akkarin.
I am not sure if I’m wholly convinced that it’s a move true to Sonea’s character as the suspicious underdog slum magician, who has been essentially imprisoned by Akkarin AND he separated from the only real friend she has, Rothen, AND who lives in complete fear because of knowing what Akkarin is (a black magician). As compelling as it is and for all of the proof Akkarin provides, I’m not sure of if how quickly she trusts him is accurate to the character of two novels ago.
There was also that little shit Regin, apologising, as if he hadn’t been a complete ass-hat for an ENTIRE NOVEL. He doesn’t actually say the words “I’m sorry” either, just makes an attempt at an excuse or an attempt at justifying why it was he and the other novices made Sonea’s life hell the previous year. *grumble grumble grumble*
And there were also some moments of revelation that appear in the last hundred and fifty pages that were necessary, but I felt were a little clunky and forced. I’m pretty sure there are three or four conversations that happen verbatim during this time between different characters. I’m aware that characters need to come to the conclusion of why before they can say: “He was telling the truth! And this is why he couldn’t tell us he was here ALL ALONG!” but I feel there could’ve been a different way to achieve this mass epiphany.
Overall this is an ambitious conclusion. A lot happens, at 630 pages it is the longest out of the three and it is the novel that moves the most geographically. It really it is a very difficult task to unload all of this information, to shoe horn in a love interest (oh yeah, that happens, twice), and maintain a compelling rhythm and motion. Out of the three this is the most complicated, there are a lot of balls being juggled here, but overall it’s a good read. Will I return to this trilogy? Very likely. They’re too easy to gobble up not to return to.