Trudi Canavan – The High Lord

Sonea has learned much since she was but a penniless urchin possessing an awesome untapped ability. She has earned the grudging respect of her fellow novices and a place in the Magicians’ Guild. But there is much she wishes she had never learned—what she witnessed, for example, in the underground chamber of the mysterious High Lord Akkarin … and the knowledge that the Guild is being observed closely by an ancient fearsome enemy.

Still, she dares not ignore the terrifying truths the High Lord would share with her, even though she fears it may be base trickery, a scheme to use her astonishing powers to accomplish his dark aims. For Sonea knows her future is in his hands—and that only in the shadows will she achieve true greatness … if she survives.

The High Lord is the final book in The Black Magician trilogy. It’s also the biggest of the lot and contains the most ‘action’ of the three, what with the Guild fighting the Sachakan Ichani. I loved this as a finish to the trilogy and I loved the set up of the book. While divided in two parts, to me it is actually more of a three-parter, with Sonea delving deeper into the mysteries of Akkarin’s black magic in the first part, following him into exile in the second and returning to battle alongside the Guild against the invading Ichani in the final part. The book had a clear beginning middle and an end, and as a whole provided the same for the overall trilogy.

Of course, Sonea’s story isn’t the only one we follow. As with previous books we get viewpoints from Cery, Lorlen, Dannyl and Rothen. They all have a part to play and a story to tell and I found all of them interesting. Canavan manages to juggle information between them in such a way that none of the viewpoints feel redundant. Of the four additional viewpoints, Dannyl’s was again my favourite. His storyline tells us how he is set the task to catch a rebel band of wannabe magicians in Elyne and his consequent discovery of black magic. As he hastens back to Imardin, taking along his evidence and several captured rebels, he is overtaken by events at the Guild, where Akkarin’s dark secret is finally revealed. I liked Dannyl’s story not just for the dramatic impact, but also because we see more of him and Tayend and their slowly developing relationship. As in The Novice, their love is problematic, as it is unaccepted by Kyralian society, but I love that neither lets this stop their feelings and by the end of the book it seems neither feels ashamed anymore to just come out and admit it.

If I had one niggle with this series, it would be the fact that Sonea and Akkarin fall in love. Well, not so much that they fall in love as the age difference between them. The strangest thing is, that on my first read of this series, it didn’t bother me at all and I never gave it a second thought. This might be because at the time, I didn’t think of this series as YA, so I didn’t think of that as a problem. Why is it a problem for a YA book in my opinion? It’s a problem because I don’t think it’s healthy for a teen to be involved with someone fifteen years their senior and showing it as okay in YA novels, in my opinion, is giving a wrong message to teens. It’s the difference not just in experience, but also in expectations and the power balance between them. I don’t know when I started to think this was a problem, perhaps I’m just getting stodgy and old or perhaps parenthood has changed my views, but apparently, I am squishy about these things these days, even if in the book Sonea is actually about twenty and Akkarin thirty-five, so technically she isn’t a teen anymore, in fact Sonea is really grown up for her age, which is unsurprising for one of her background. On the whole though, once I got over myself, I really liked their chemistry and how strong Sonea is in this relationship, so it was only a niggle and not a big problem.

Sonea’s character was a joy to read. She’s such a strong protagonist and doesn’t let what’s safe keep her from doing what is right. Her progression from a street smart slum girl to a strong and confident young woman, who stands behind her choices and doesn’t let people talk her out of them lightly, if at all, is very well done and I really found it a believable process.

As an ending to The Black Magician trilogy, The High Lord was a fantastic book. There is loss and there is gain and the battle against the Ichani was quite exciting and caused me to hold my breath not a few times. I mourned for those that were lost during the war, but I was so gratified to see the people from the slums getting their own back on the Ichani and winning the grudging respect of the Guild and some of the nobles. The ending of the book left me hopeful for Sonea’s future and for a better future for the slum dwellers. This trilogy really is a great introduction to fantasy for YA readers and I think will be a fun read for anyone who likes more classic fantasy. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out for Sonea and the others in the follow-up trilogy to this one, The Traitor Spy trilogy. Look for a review of the first in that series, The Ambassador’s Mission in a couple of weeks.

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