Saturday, November 3, 2018

Nobody's Perfect - The Ambassador's Mission

I think I may have read Trudi Canavan's best works first (Thief's Magic, The Black Magician), and it has given me out-sized expectations for her writing. It's not realistic that every work of hers ever would change my life, and it's not fair to her either. She's a spectacular storyteller, and an important voice in fantasy.

So it's okay when I say some of her less-than-spectacular qualities rule the day in The Ambassador's Mission, the start of the Traitor Spy Trilogy that follows her Black Magician Trilogy, which I hold near and dear to my heart. This story starts decades after the end of The High Lord - Lothen, son of Sonea and the late High Lord Akkarin, is a young man, and ready to depart on a mission to Sachaka, the very place that enslaved his father and produced a rebel band of black magicians that knocked Imardin on its ass, saved only by Sonea & Akkarin in the dramatic finale of the first trilogy.

I remember how thrilling it was to read The Magician's Guild, the first book of the Black Magician trilogy. It was full of tension and action, and I completely missed dinner that day (though I was sitting at a table full of relatives). I sadly did not have that feeling this time around. The premise given on the back of the book (basically what I just summarized above), constitutes the whole of the book. It was an extremely slow and expected start, without a whole lot of twists and turns along the way. The characters who have aged (Dannyl, Rothen, Cery), felt stale, with younger characters added in to very transparently keep the story fresh. I liked Cery's storyline, but it did feel like more of the same. The development of Regin, the arch-enemy in The Novice, was interesting, and I'm intrigued to see where his improved maturity will take him. But Sonea, who was full of fire and wit - she struck me so much like Rielle in Successor's Promise, Book 3 of Canavan's Millenium's Rule Series. She became less active, more constrained by social propriety, and burdened by overthinking every decision to the point of boredom, rather than tension.

This was the case for Lothen and Dannyl as well, even as they are travelling to the most dangerous place in the Allied Lands. The pace was plodding when it should have been riveting. And, I'm sorry to say, I don't care for the characterization of the Traitors, the new Sachakan rebel sub-set that Lothen has fallen in with.

The characters continually make stupid decisions, but not for reasons that feel authentic to their characters. The progression of the plot becomes forced because what Lothen and Sonea and Dannyl do seems only to work because the author is trying to push them to get to a particular place. The narrative lost a sense of organic flow, and that nail-biting expectation got demolished along the way.

My only hope is that the next installment, The Rogue, will be better.
K. Rating: 2/5

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