(To read my review of the previous book from The Traitor Spy Trilogy, The Ambassador’s Mission, click here.)
After getting to meet Trudi Canavan, one of my long time favourite authors, I thought it was about time I settled down with the next installment of The Traitor Spy Trilogy! I was originally planning on giving this book four stars, but on reflection I have changed it to a three. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Rogue as an escape from deadlines but as heartbreaking as it is for me to say, there is nothing memorable about this novel. Already its content is beginning to fade and it has left me wondering how exactly Canavan managed to fill five hundred odd pages.
Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous Black Magician Trilogy or the The Ambassador’s Mission, this review will contain spoilers about previous plots and characters from those books. However, this review will not contain any major spoilers for The Rogue.
Living among the Sachakan rebels, Lorkin does his best to learn about them and their unique magic. But the Traitors are reluctant to trade their secrets for the Healing they so desperately want and, while Lorkin assumes they fear revealing their existence to the world, there are hints that they have bigger plans.
Meanwhile, Sonea searches for the rogue, knowing that Cery cannot avoid assassination for ever, but the rogue’s influence over the city’s underworld is far greater than she feared. His only weakness is the loss of his mother, now locked away in the Lookout.
In Sachaka, Lord Dannyl has lost the respect of the Sachakan elite for allowing Lorkin to join the Traitors. The Ashaki’s attention has shifted, instead, to new Elyne Ambassador – a man Dannyl knows all too well.
And in the University, two female novices are about to remind the Guild that sometimes their greatest enemy is found within…
This book felt a little like an overindulgent chess game. There are sets of characters on each side of the board in the lands of Kyralia and Sachaka, and the story flits back and forth between the two. There are also two different sets of characters to follow in each location, making four key storylines to follow in total (hopefully this is making sense). With Canvan’s key characters spread so widely it really slowed down the plot. Each time the reader visits a different character a small nugget of information is revealed or a question is posed, as if moving a tiny chess piece one space forward on the board. The problem is, these pieces of information are so minuscule that it takes a long time to learn anything substantial, furthermore, each time one small piece of information is found the characters have to mull it over and over again each time you revisit them to decide where they’re going to move their chess piece next. While I enjoyed each story individually because of my long affection for the world Canavan created and was happy to let the book plod along at a slow pace, the plotting prevented this book from being anything extraordinary. As I noted with the first novel The Ambassador’s Mission, I also felt The Rogue was not a complete story on its own, there is no big reveal, no dramatic twist, no checkmate (unless you count an incredibly obvious one that not only did I spot, but also half the readers on Goodreads).
As always I found Canvan’s writing wonderful to read and this was by far my favourite aspect of the book. Her prose felt smooth and delicate, it’s not that she has mad technical skills or an affinity for metaphor’s, but her writing flows beautifully. Without realising 50 pages of The Rogue could fly by with no problem, even considering the slow plotting. Reality was a mere shadow in the land of magic, thieves and magicians and I was surprised by how easily I could slip in and out of the book. Within a minute of picking it up I was always thrust straight back into the story. I loved Canavan’s imagery especially, the descriptions of the Sachakan desert transported me, and her vision for the Traitor’s safe haven was a brilliant mix of imagination and thoughtful practicality. The inclusion of the waterfall in the scenery also brought a tear to my eye (fans of The Black Magician Trilogy will know what I’m talking about). I did notice in this installment however, that there was a considerable amount of telling rather than showing. I hate using that term because it sounds so cliché and clinical, but it definitely stood out in The Rogue. In fact if I’m being honest, I think most of this book was telling and maybe this was another contribution to the slow plotting.
I was pleased to see some further character development in this book. I was worried that I would not warm up to Sonea’s son, Lorkin as nothing grabbed me about him in the first novel. His dealings with the Traitor’s society did make him more amiable. He is set challenges that test his morals, giving more insight into his personality, and I am interested to see what he will do and accomplish next. Having said that he is not nearly as well developed as Canavan’s previous characters, nor do I hold him with same kind of affection as I do for Sonea, Rothen or Cery, so there is still a little work to be done! I was also surprised and pleased by the reappearance of Dorrien a favourite character from the previous trilogy. His return while not vital to the plot in any way was still a lot of fun and led to some heartfelt scenes. Sonea was her same old stoical and endearing self which I always enjoy reading. However, the storyline given to her in this book was really quite lacklustre, and she seemed to miss obvious evidence that was right under her nose which led to a bit of frustration.
There were also new additions to the series, two novices Naki and Lilia. Naki was a rich and rebellious novice who befriended Lilia, a slum born novice. This kind of interaction is unheard of in the university, so at first I was drawn to their characters and was interested to see what the author would do with their storyline. I thought they could add an interesting new element and I liked the emphasis on the collision of class differences. However, the storyline soon became predictable, not to mention irritating. Lilia was frustratingly naïve and put her trust in the most ridiculous people. At first I liked her character, but by the end of the novel I wanted to whack her over the head with a stick Rafiki style.
Although I have listed a lot of negatives I did enjoy this book, it was a fun bit of relief and relaxation in comparison to the real world! I guess this review reflects my frustration with the series, especially as I know Trudi Canavan is capable of far bigger and better things. Her previous series’ have been brilliant, but so far The Traitor Spy Trilogy isn’t quite stacking up. I can only hope that the third book will bring an action filled worthwhile ending that I know the author is capable of! I would recommend this series to existing fans of The Black Magician Trilogy, for other readers I would suggest trying one of her other series as they are far more entertaining and remain some of my favourite books. 🙂
(To read my review of the next book in The Traitor Spy Trilogy, The Traitor Queen, click here.)
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? To fans of The Black Magician Trilogy.
Overall Impression: 3/5
Book Cover: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8411749-the-rogue?ac=1