Just throwing it out there that my current nail varnish matches the colour of this book, I think that’s kind of awesome considering it was coincidental. 😛
So I’ve finally finished the novel I have been eagerly anticipating for years! This is the first book in the Traitor Spy Trilogy which follows up 20 years after the events in The Black Magician Trilogy I fell in love with so swiftly. You definitely need to read The Black Magician Trilogy first as this book follows many of the old characters and helps with the background history of how the world works.
For pure enjoyment this novel would theoretically get 4 stars because I love the author’s style. However, here in sucky old reality there were a lot of issues holding this book back from being amazing that the reviewer side of my brain couldn’t shut off. This is the second book set in this world by my favourite author I’ve given 3 stars, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME TRUDI? WHHHYYYYYY?!?!
Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous Black Magician Trilogy this review will contain spoilers about previous plots and characters from those books. However, this review will not contain any major spoilers about the book The Ambassador’s Mission.
As the son of the late High Lord Akkarin, saviour of the city, and Sonea, the former street urchin turned Black Magician, Lorkin has a legacy of heroism and adventure to live up to. So when Lord Dannyl takes the position of Guild Ambassador to Sachaka, Lorkin volunteers to be his assistant in the hopes of making his mark on the world.
When news comes that Lorkin is in danger, the law that forbids Black Magicians leaving the city forces Sonea to trust that Dannyl will save him, and now Cery needs her as never before. Someone has been assassinating Thieves, and when his family is targeted he finds evidence that this Thief Hunter uses magic.
Either a member of the Guild is hunting down the Thieves one by one, or there is – once again – a rogue on the streets of Imardin. But this one has full control of their powers – and is willing to kill with them.
The plot is split two ways while we follow four main characters and the blurb pretty much sums it up. In Kyralia, Cery the thief searches for the Thief Hunter who is a threat to his family, as Sonea the magician manages her hospice for the poor trying to get to the bottom of a new mysterious drug called roet. At the the same time she tries to aid Cery with his mission. Meanwhile in Sachaka her son, Lorkin gets abducted by a beautiful and mysterious woman named Tyvara who belongs to a hidden society, rebel women who refuse to accept the gender restrictions of their land. Ambassador Dannyl searches with a group of Sachakan’s trying to get to the bottom of Lorkin’s disappearance.
*Sigh*, it was so great having the opportunity to return to Canavan’s fantasy world with all of its wonderful elements; the beloved Magician’s Guild, the secret underground network of the Thieves Road and the dangerous foreign lands of Sachaka, and yet….it is all beginning to feel a little…stale. Which worries me. I did enjoy the book, just not nearly as much as I was hoping or expecting to and it felt like the same fantasy tropes had been used again that were in the previous books.
All the storylines were interesting, but the problem was there is no ‘umph’ to them. Each one contains a lot of waiting; waiting for something to happen, waiting to get somewhere or waiting for someone, so that there were few actual events taking place. The characters often ponder the same questions over and over and it seems as if the author flicking between the four different perspectives is an attempt to disguise that not all that much happens in the book. The pace is consistent, not too slow but not full of action and I must admit I was hoping for a more definitive ending but instead the story just seemed to stop. The book also retraces a lot of old ground so you don’t feel as if you are gaining that much information. My main problem though, is that it’s not a story in it’s own right – what I mean by that is this book is not a complete story on its own, it needs to be seen as a whole in conjunction with the other two books. The Ambassador’s Mission feels like the stage setup before the concert, and hopefully all that careful planning and considered time will pay off when readers finish the trilogy. 🙂 This is not the first time I’ve found this with Canavan’s work, her Age of Five trilogy took a while to get going but ended up being great, so hopefully it will happen again! Of course it’s not all doom and gloom, I definitely enjoyed the plot to the point where I struggled to put the book down, and I found myself reaching for it whenever I had a spare moment. This was especially problematic because I was reading it when I should have been revising, whoopsie! :S
Trudi Canavan’s writing is awesome as always, I’m pretty sure she could write a book about spreadsheets and I would still be fascinated and glued to the pages. I don’t know what she does or how she does it but I get hooked every time! Her descriptions make me sigh with envy, HOW IS SHE ALLOWED TO BE THAT GOOD AT WRITING? AGH. It’s one of those rare cases where I just revel in the author’s every choice of word and turn of phrase. This for instance:
‘A pity we had to change so much. Instead of growing around each other like that romantic notion of couples being like entwined trees, we became uncomfortably tangled, competing for water and soil.’ – pg 419
I don’t even know if she would be considered a technically good writer but something about her style and passion just resonates with me in a way many other authors don’t. I love her descriptions especially, the medieval pre-technology but with magic world her tales are usually set in is perfectly suited for me because I love all that kind of stuff; reading about hidden passageways, grand building and the brown crisp pages of old documents, it just screams adventure to me. 🙂
We get to reacquaint ourselves with many old characters that we know and love from the original series; Sonea the headstrong compassionate magician with a love for knowledge and magical healing, Dannyl the Alchemist and lad (the equivalent of being gay in Canavan’s world) determined to discover more about the the gaps in Kyralian and Sachakan history, Cery the cunning but dignified thief and Lord Rothen, Sonea’s mentor with a heart of gold. I was especially surprised that Sonea’s childhood bully Regin played a large role in this book, something I was not expecting at all!
Along with these are an interesting cast of new characters although they have not been developed as well so far. Unfortunately this may be a result of including so many of the old characters leaving less room for development of new ones, a bit of a double edged sword. Lorkin, Sonea’s son is the most prominent new character but I failed to connect with him. The only traits he seemed to have were a weakness for the opposite sex and the need to prove himself. He made strange decisions and I wasn’t sure if the thought process was believable. I didn’t dislike him, but didn’t warm to him either. Tyvara the mysterious woman who abducts Lorkin was a pretty interesting, I loved how unassuming and meek the author presented her and then flipped the character completely and I am looking forward to seeing what’s in store for her. Cery’s daughter also makes a fun comedic addition with her determination. One thing Canavan does well is her strong female characters. Finally Ashaki Achati the Sachakan was an interesting contrast and gives a great insight into the two different cultures.
I would recommend this book to those 13+ male or female who love fantasy, thorough world building and great writing! Fans of the original series will enjoy delving back into the world of Imardin, and if you haven’t read the first series, well, you better get your butt over to your preferred book retailer and grab yourself a copy of The Magician’s Guild! 🙂
(To read my review of the next book in The Traitor Spy Trilogy, The Rogue, click here.)
Writing Style: 5/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes, BECAUSE IT’S TRUDI CANAVAN. READ ALLLLL THE CANAVAN! 😀
Overall Impression: 3/5
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7165405-the-ambassador-s-mission