Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Magician's Guild - Inhaled It!

Image result for black magician canavan
After many movies and books that left me wanting more in recent months, thank the heavens for Trudi Canavan's The Magician's Guild, Book One of her Black Magician Trilogy.

This is the second work I've read of hers, the first being Thief's Magic, Book One of the Millenium's Rule Trilogy. The second book, Angel of Storms, was recently released, and I've been doing all I can to restrain myself so that I can give the other authors on my shelf a chance. So I cheated just a smidge and picked up her other series. Best decision ever.

The Magician's Guild begins with the premise of a young girl from the slums miraculously breaking through a shield forged by an entire guild of magicians, without knowing how. The volume follows Sonea as she tries to hide herself from the Guild, using up favors with factions all over Imardin, until she realizes her unfettered magic may spell doom for her city, her family, and herself.

Canavan does something wonderful with her fantasy writing. She has such a sense for world-building, and really shines in demonstrating the structure of her societies, particularly with regards to class divisions, wealth and poverty, urban planning, the relationships between different neighborhoods, social factions, and artisans of a city, it really is something beautiful to behold. And all this done in the most integral and organic of ways--through action, plot, dialogue. No lengthy expositions from an omniscient narrator. She has a great knack for naming as well--from something as simple as interesting and thoughtfully crafted character names to renaming everyday things like rats and alcohol. She even included a glossary in the back of the book. A cute idea, but unnecessary because of the writing. I know that a fen is a spider, because she uses other identifiers, so I get the image in my head that I should, but also the sense of its uniqueness. I'm given the impression that it is spider-like, yet it can still be a fen, and not a spider. Truly great descriptions. I wish her environments were described with similar power, and it's not for lack of trying, but my mind does fill in most of the gaps on that front. It's my only quibble with her overall style as a writer.

Some of the things I loved about Thief's Magic are present here too--the class divisions, as I just fawned over, sharp dialogue and writing structure--noticeably so. And a genius approach to the romantic threads in her stories. These books are by no means romances--they are straight fantasy. But love is one of the many experiences her characters have, and she does it in such an underplayed, subtle way, until of course, she throws romance conventions to the wind and absolutely breaks your heart, that the result is quite beautiful. Without divulging too much, her broken and flawed relationships are far and away the best iterations of love I have seen in texts, most likely because of its many tribulations under her hand. It pains me to break the hearts of my own characters, and I'll admit, it's made me cry sometimes as I'm writing. I can only imagine what those days are like for her.

Also done particularly well in both series is her description of magic and how it operates in the world. Here, we had lots of interesting segments dealing with magic on an intellectual plane--as related to guided meditation. I have done guided meditation before, and found her explanations clear and extremely interesting. Talking mostly about the amount of mental control required was, for me, unique interpretation of magical systems, and overtly intuitive. The Millenium's Rule series did much the same, approaching magic from the rare perspective of an energy source, and one that can be easily overextended and thus requiring varying degrees of regulation. What makes Canavan such a fantastic writer, in my view, is her ability to take resonant, urgent issues of our own universe--race, class, energy, bureaucratic power--and bend them to her will to provide exotic and intriguing worlds that are well fleshed out and comprehensible as much as they are foreign. Her characters, in other words, and the emotions she puts them through, are hauntingly real. My highest scores go to her as an author, and to this particular title, which was consumed voraciously and will be boiling at the back of my mind until Books Two and Three show up in my mailbox. Yep. That good.

K Rating: 10/10

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