I read the first book in this series, The Magician’s Guild, and was not impressed. Since I own the entire trilogy though I decided to give Trudi Canavan the benefit of doubt and continue to read her work. You know what? I actually really enjoyed The Novice.
The Novice continues Sonea’s story from the first book but if you could not finish that first story don’t worry. It sums up all of the events of that book quickly yet clearly, meaning that you could skip it entirely should you choose to without missing anything important. It follows Sonea’s first year in the guild and provides a much more focussed and developed setting than the previous book. It really zooms in on Sonea’s troubles and develops her as a character unlike her 2d representation in book one.
It could read like a Harry Potter rip off to any close-minded readers. It takes place almost exclusively in a magical school and revolves mainly around a talented teen from a different social background who is bullied by an arrogant and cruel fellow student. The overarching threat or antagonist just stands in the background, known to the readers and protagonist but kind of ignored and uninvolved with the plot. This is clearly a set-up for the next book though so I never felt disappointed with this lack of an involved antagonist.
Everything is more developed and focused than the first book. It is a good show of evolution for both the series and the author. I enjoyed it and that is the simple truth. What it did that differentiated itself from other similar children’s books is to really highlight social issues such as class, sexuality and blurred morality without ever feeling blunt of preachy. Characters struggle with their own sexuality against the expectations of society. This is a full character arc and it was strangely charming to read. It didn’t feel awkward or shoehorned.
So yeah, if you felt let down by the first book, I whole-heartedly recommend that you read this one. I now look forward to starting the third.
8/10 Rubber duckies in a purple bathtub.