This is a hard book to review. Whilst I did enjoy a lot of it, it also suffered from middle book syndrome in that the main plot isn’t even close to being resolved. Obviously, if it had been wrapped up, then there’d be no trilogy, would there? Don’t answer that.
So after the events at the end of the last, the two main points are that everyone is desperately searching for Skellin and Lorkin has been taken to the home of the Traitors. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re starting in the wrong place and need to go back and read The Ambassador’s Mission. Whilst not necessary, I’d also recommend reading the Black Magician trilogy as this involves the same characters some twenty years later.
Let me get what I didn’t like about the story out of the way and that essentially boils down to lack of progress in the Skellin plotline. Granted I didn’t expect much progress but I would have liked to have seen some. In fact, Skellin didn’t make an appearance at all. There’s that and also the fact that there was little action. A couple of pages over brief fights and a brief kidnapping but they were resolved too quickly.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I did like. We’re introduced to a new character, Lilia a novice whose family were servants. I really liked this story line and found myself rooting for her as she falls under the sway of another novice, Naki, an apparent beauty from the upper classes of society. Lilia is seen to grow in character as she comes to terms with her sexuality and her love with Naki which may or may not be returned as well as the life changing events thrust upon her as she encounters the forbidden art of black magic.
It might be said that Lilia is a token nod to the lesbian community perhaps to balance out that we already have Dannyl who is openly gay. Whatever the reason that Lilia was introduced, I felt that her story was deftly handled and hopefully we’ll see more of her in The Traitor Queen.
Lorkin’s time amongst the Traitors also advances nicely as he is put to work in an attempt to pay for his father’s not honouring his part of a deal. It was good to see the Traitor’s society expanded upon, having first met them in The Magician’s Apprentice (a prequel to the entire series – another book that is not necessary but will certainly enrich the world).
Finally, there is Sonea, the heroine from the Black Magician trilogy, a black magician herself and how comes to terms with a face from the past and at the same time handling the search for Skellin.
Overall, it’s not a rivetting read, but if you enjoy Trudi Canavan’s work and picked up The Ambassor’s Mission, then this should be an enjoyable read.