The Magician's Apprentice
Can an author actually plagiarise herself?
The Magician's Apprentice is set a few hundred years before Trudi Canavan’s remarkably good Black Magician series, and covers the founding of the Magician’s Guild. (Magicians in the Guild’s universe are basically energy-manipulators, capable of healing and fighting.) It follows the life of Tessia – a natural magician – as she discovers her magic powers, develops her skills and is finally plunged into war.
It reads like a considerably inferior version of the original books. Tessia has the same basic background as the first heroine and sounds very similar, at least to my reading eyes. She has an interesting relationship with her master and a predicable relationship with one of her fellow apprentices. The other characters aren’t much better defined; they just didn’t grab my attention the way that some of the characters from the first series did. The addition of a feminist subplot and bursts of political commentary only detract from the original plotline, although it isn’t that much of a problem. The book rarely becomes exciting.
The magicians are also stupid, not a term I use lightly. The tactics in the book consist largely of two sides blasting away at each other, rather than any attempt to use subtle tactics against the opposing side. There are some interesting developments of magic – the good guys cooperate, the bay guys cannot – but a halfway competent sniper, using a bow and arrow, could have wiped out both sides in an afternoon. One of the apprentices shows more military skill than his masters and is rebuked for it, rather than being applauded. Large parts of the war scenes consist of arguments about how to proceed and trailing the enemy magicians across the land. And, when the end comes, the enemy caves far too rapidly.
The book does have some entertaining moments, to be fair, but overall it’s not worth more than two stars.