Overall Impression: Intelligent world building and complex storytelling at its best.
I don’t normally like this phrase, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that I am one of Trudi Canavan’s ‘biggest fans’. I was first exposed to her work aged 15 Since, I have bought all of her books, visited her at an author signing and followed her general online updates with a bucket of over enthusiasm. Naturally, I was looking forward to the release of Thief’s Magic in May with a sort of excited and impatient hysteria. A new book AND a brand new series? I couldn’t wait to see what Canavan would do with a new fantasy world.
So of course I was in a state of shock when the Little, Brown Book Group offered me an ARC of Thief’s Magic, the first book in the Millennium’s Rule Trilogy in exchange for an honest review. Holding back shouts of ‘Gimme, gimme!’ I accepted, and a pretty brown package turned up the next day. I raced though the pages of Thief’s Magic quickly, once again Trudi Canavan did not disappoint!
In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.
Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it – should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath.
But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands. Not even the people they trust.
Thief’s Magic is an epic adventure/fantasy novel that follows a young man named Tyen struggling to make his mark on the world. His friends have always seen him as a goodie goodie who follows all the rules and procedures. But when Tyen discovers a magical book on an archeology trip, bound with human hair and skin with the consciousness of a woman named Vella trapped within the pages, Tyen feels the impulse to break the rules for once. Findings are supposed to be handed straight to the Academy, but instead Tyen covets the book for himself. He soon realises that there is more to Vella than meets the eye, she’s lived though centuries collecting a vast array of knowledge, has travelled though many different worlds and is able to consume the entire knowledge a person possesses with a single touch. In the right hands she is a valuable source of history and knowledge; in the wrong ones she is a danger to everyone. When the academy realise what Tyen is hiding it will set off a dangerous chain of events forcing him to leave the only life he has ever known.
Meanwhile in an alternate world, a girl named Rielle is struggling to fit into the constraints of her life as a rich dyers daughter. Her parents are determined to improve her prospects by matching her with a rich man. But Rielle harbours a dangerous secret; she can see stain, a residue left behind after the use of magic. In her world, those who use magic are exiled and labeled the tainted as punishment for stealing the power of the Angels. But when Rielle collides with an attractive lowly painter, her secret becomes threatened.
Once again Canavan’s writing is sublime. I never tire of her smooth, evenly paced prose which always lull me into a sense of calm. I admired her every sentence and turn of phrase. She whisked me away with her engaging style, drawing me into the struggles of the two leading protagonists. As I have noted with Canavan’s previous works her writing is quite meandering but in a pleasant way; she is not a fast paced writer but neither is she slow. Canavan gives enough detail to create a clear and rich fantasy world which naturally slows the pace a little, however, her worlds and the characters living within them are all the more satisfying because of it and ultimately, this is why I feel her style works so well. I was impressed that the author developed an entirely new explanation as to how magic worked in this new series, clearly setting it apart from her previous works. Canavan also writes in a way that makes fantasy accessible to any reader. Her books are intricate but not too overwhelming which I believe is a concern that puts many off high fantasy. Canavan traverses the genre with ease, her expertise showing though the pages so that readers will never find themselves feeling too daunted or lost. The chapters of Thief’s Magic flew by and before I knew it I was slowing down my reading pace in the hopes of drawing out the story just a little longer because I wasn’t quite ready to let go of it yet!
The plot of this novel had me hooked from day one. The narrative switches back and forth between Tyen and Rielle’s perspectives and I liked that as a reader I was treated to big chunks of each characters’ viewpoint in one go rather than having alternating chapters, it gave me the opportunity to become invested in each protagonist and their separate worlds. I was drawn to Tyen’s adventures instantly, his discovery of the mysterious book, the set up of the academy he studied at and his world’s views on magic. Vella was a regular enigma for me. I never knew whether Tyen should trust the book, unsure if he was being lead astray through manipulation. However, the problem with the parallel storylines was that I was far more invested in one than in the other. It took me longer to warm to Rielle’s tale, it seemed slow moving in comparison and I didn’t find her predicaments or world setup quite as interesting as Tyens. However, as the story progressed the events in Rielle’s world escalated increasing my interest. I soon found myself worrying for her safety desperate to see how she would get out of trouble.
The world building in this novel was fascinating and probably my favourite aspect of Thief’s Magic. Both Tyen and Rielle’s worlds were different and unique. Tyen’s lives in the midst of invention and discovery, there are fancy machines and aircarts, flying contraptions powered by magic and I definitely felt there was a slight underlying steampunk vibe. However, their gluttonous use of magic is at a cost because they are slowly running out of it. While Tyen’s world celebrates magic, Rielle’s shuns it. Her city is more hot and desert like, controlled by priests who alone have permission to use magic.There are clear class and gender divides, with some great feminist undertones weaved in. Everyday people are punished for using magic and understand little about how it works.What I found most interesting about the two worlds was considering their wildly different setups there were also a lot of similarities between then that had been interpreted in different ways according to each world’s individual cultures. It’s so clever because as a reader you can see logically how their worlds could have developed to become so different, each belief system seems equally plausible and believable, functioning successfully with the materials available. As a reader these hints begin to provide subtle clues that may lead to the understanding about the history of magic and how to solve the problems each world is facing, with an omnipresent view you start to see the links where the characters cannot. It’s really exciting to picture where this series is going to go, there is already so much opportunity to expand the story in future books, with an endless expanse of new worlds with mysteries and myths to unearth.
What I found most interesting about the two worlds was considering their wildly different setups there were also a lot of similarities between then that had been interpreted in different ways according to each world’s individual cultures. It’s so clever because as a reader you can see logically how their worlds could have developed to become so different, each belief system seems equally plausible and believable, functioning successfully with the materials available. As a reader these hints begin to provide subtle clues that may lead to the understanding about the history of magic and how to solve the problems each world is facing, with an omnipresent view you start to see the links where the characters cannot. It’s really exciting to picture where this series is going to go, there is already so much opportunity to expand the story in future books, with an endless expanse of new worlds with mysteries and myths to unearth.
Tyen was by far my favourite character in Thief’s Magic, his love of knowledge, will to succeed and his determination to become the best he could be were inspiring and all traits I could relate to. He was faced with a great deal of moral dilemma’s and was forced to reevaluate his entire belief system and everything he had been raised to believe. In many ways, Rielle has to come to terms with these things too. She has always tried to do what was right and please her parents and the priests that rule her land but soon she finds herself longing for things they would not find acceptable. However, I didn’t warm to her character as much if I’m honest, I found her a little annoying and the romance that blossomed between her and the painter felt hollow and underdeveloped to me. I still found her story as a whole interesting though. Kilraker, Tyen’s mentor was great fun as a character, I liked how much of an enigma he was and I had fun trying to work him out and Sa-Gest made the perfect villain, deceptive and despicable in every way. Vella the book was a great character too, her lack of human emotion made her unintentionally funny and blunt at the most unusual times.
Overall Thief’s Magic was a brilliant, engaging read and everything I had hoped it would be. Although I enjoyed The Traitor Spy Trilogy I was yearning for something new and fresh, Thief’s Magic certainly ticked all those boxes. The world building was intelligent and complex, the plot gripping and the characters entertaining. I would recommend this book to males or females 15+ who enjoy rich fantasy worlds, good writing and entertaining characters. Thief’s Magic was released May 15, so you can officially grab your copy now! 🙂
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes!
Overall Impression: 4/5