Half the Thieves in the city are dead…
Sonea, a Black Magician of Kyralia, knows that she is needed to help hunt down the rogue magician killing them. But Sonea has problems of her own. Her son is the assistant to the new Guild Ambassador to Sachaka and will be in deadly danger when he sets foot on their ancient enemy’s soil. As a Black Magician, however, Sonea’s every action is watched. Any attempt to leave the city will result in her exile, and lose her any chance of helping her friends – or her son.
Warning: This is a review for the first book of Canavan’s second trilogy set in the world of Kyralia. Of necessity, there will be spoilers, albeit minor ones, for the first trilogy set in that world. If you haven’t read The Black Magician trilogy and don’t want to be spoiled in any way, this review is best avoided!
The Ambassador’s Mission is the first book in the sequel trilogy to The Black Magician series. It is set about twenty years after the first trilogy concluded and most of the cast from The High Lord make a return appearance, which I loved. The kids have grown up and the adults have grown older, in fact the novices have children of their own. It is nice to see the repercussions of some of the changes made after the events of The High Lord, such as allowing novices from outside the Houses and allowing Sonea to remain as a Black Magician within the Guild. I appreciated the reality of the problems still lingering even twenty years after these changes have been put in place. It felt true to human nature and shows how hard it actually is to get changes in society accepted by all, even if their implementation is supported by the majority.
The Ambassador’s Mission is essentially two stories; on the one hand we have the murder mystery in Imardin, with Sonea having to help solve the murder of Cery’s family and the other Thieves and tracking the killer and on the other hand Lorkin and Dannyl’s story in Sachaka. The murder mystery was enjoyable and quite surprising; I didn’t guess the ultimate culprit until the reveal! Having the Thieves involved was interesting as it gave Canavan the opportunity to show us how the changes in the Guild affected the slum dwellers as well. Again we’re shown that changes we perceive to be to the good, such as the abolition of the yearly Purge, have unexpected consequences, not all of which are actually beneficial. In this case the stabilisation and increased welfare of the slum dwellers, whose slums slowly turn into proper quarters, mean that crime isn’t solely controlled by the Thieves and that there is an increase in crime and a change in the sort of crime, most notably the appearance of the drug Rot in the streets. I also loved having a closer look at the hospices that Sonea founded throughout the city. The people working there are a breed apart and I really enjoyed the scenes Canavan set there.
Where the Imardin murder mystery story arc is dominated by Cery and Sonea’s points of view, the one set in Sachaka is told from Dannyl’s and Lorkin’s point of view. Especially the latter’s is a fun perspective. I really enjoyed the time we spent with Sonea’s and Akkarin’s son and seeing how hard it is for him to always be between two worlds; neither a lower class novice, nor a noble born one, the son of two extremely talented black magicians, who needs to find his own way in the world to step out of their shadows. The renewed look at Sachaka was also very interesting, especially as we got a look at ancient Sachaka in The Magician’s Apprentice. There is a great continuation from things set up in that book as well, such as the Traitors in Sachaka, even though you don’t have to have read The Magician’s Apprentice to understand this book. I liked the political intricacies Dannyl and Lorkin have to manoeuvre through on their mission and once Lorkin gets involved with the Traitors this gets ramped up just as the action does. I liked seeing how the Traitors’ society had evolved from the small band of refugees we followed to their sanctuary in The Magician’s Apprentice. The scenes set there at the end of the novel are some of my favourites and I can’t wait to see more of them.
I loved the continued look at same-sex pairings and their acceptance in the different societies. Surprisingly, and perhaps disappointingly, this is limited only to gay relationships, through Dannyl and Tayend’s relationships and Dannyl being propositioned in Sachaka. You’d expect there to also be some lesbian relationships, especially in the female-dominated culture of the Traitors. However, unless I missed it, there isn’t any mention made of any such relationships. I wonder whether we’ll see these in later books, because so far acceptance of homosexuality has been a theme in all of the books and it is interesting to see how this develops throughout all the books.
On the whole The Ambassador’s Mission is a solid start to this new trilogy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book, The Rogue, which will be out in paperback this week, and the final book, The Traitor Queen, due out in hardback this August, as I really want to find out more about the Traitors and see how Sonea will go about hunting down the Rogue loose in Imardin. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Black Magician trilogy previously, be sure to pick up The Ambassador’s Mission, as it’s as good if not better as the prior books!