Alone among all the novices in the Magicians’ Guild, only Sonea comes from lowly beginnings. Yet she has won powerful allies—including Lord Dannyl, newly promoted to Guild Ambassador. But Dannyl must now depart for the Elyne court, leaving Sonea at the mercy of the lies and malicious rumors her enemies are busy spreading… until the High Lord Akkarin steps in. The price of Akkarin’s support is dear, however, because Sonea, in turn, must protect his mysteries—and a secret that could lead a young novice mage deep into the darkness.
Meanwhile, Dannyl’s first order to resume High Lord Akkarin’s long-abandoned research into ancient magical knowledge is setting him on an extraordinary journey fraught with unanticipated peril—as he moves ever-closer to a future both wondrous … and terrible.
The Novice is the second book in The Black Magician trilogy. In it, we see Sonea actually moving into the Guild as a full-fledged novice, including classes and classmates. Sonea doesn’t have an easy time of it, mostly because her background is unacceptable to most of her classmates. One in particular sets out to make her life miserable and turns the entire group against her and tries to make her look bad to the rest of the Guild as well. While not unfamiliar – it’s an oft used trope, the first that springs to my mind is Talia’s story in Arrows of the Queen – it’s an effective one as most people and especially teens will be able to identify with it, as almost everyone has experienced bullying in real life, be it as a victim, a perpetrator or a bystander.
Akkarin plays a larger role this time around; while he was an ominous, mysterious and shadowy figure in the background in the first book, he takes a far more active part here, though no less ominous. Through Sonea, we get glimpses of the man, but what we see is of course heavily coloured by her distrust and dislike of him. And I got my wish about seeing more of Dannyl and Lorlen as they both got their own points of view. We see far less of Rothen, due to the fact Sonea and Lorlen aren’t allowed to speak to him or each other, and I missed the warm bond between Rothen and Sonea, as I loved those scenes in the first book. The addition of Dorrien, Rothen’s son, is a nice one and gives Sonea yet another friend, but also another liability. Dorrien is a fun character and I liked that he brought some light and levity to Sonea’s rather bleak world in this book.
We also see more world building with Dannyl travelling abroad, not just Elyne, the land he’s sent to as an ambassador, but also Vin and Lonmar. I like Dannyl’s storyline, not just because of the chance to see more of this world, but also as it touches on another hotbed issue: about intolerance and accepting who you are in the face of it. I loved Dannyl’s growth in this and the fact that the author shows that it isn’t just those who blatantly discriminate against people who are ‘other’ who are harmful, but also those who just stand by and let it happen, even if they themselves don’t feel that way. Sonea shows a lot of growth from the first book as well, she reads a lot older than she did in the previous book and she gains in confidence, power and skill, which make it easier for her to defend herself against Regin and the isolation she finds herself in after becoming the High Lord’s novice. Regin is a cretin, I found him utterly loathsome and I still don’t understand why no adults stepped in sooner to stop him. I loved how Sonea finally stood up to him and how smart she is in beating him without stooping to his level or hiding behind her status.
The Novice doesn’t suffer from second book syndrome. While it’s a natural continuation of the storyline from book one and it sets stuff up for book three, it does have enough action in and of itself to not drag. I loved this second book and am looking forward to the next one, called The High Lord, to see if the finish of this trilogy is as good as I remember it.