"It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow streets because it is grieved by what it finds there. On the day of the Purge it whistled amongst the swaying masts in the Marina, rushed through the Western Gates and screamed between the buildings. Then, as if appalled by the ragged souls it met there, it quietened to a whimper."
This is the opening of Trudi Canavan's 'The Black Magician Trilogy'. Impressive opening, right? The story line is even better. Even the barest of an outline will be a spoiler, so I will just give mention where the whole story starts.
Sonea is a slum dweller and it is the Purge - an annual event ordered by the King to forcefully remove all the poor folk from within the city. Even people who were managing to make a living there, with small businesses are required to leave. The Magicians, who are all from the best breeding, are required to assist with the Purge, keeping the guards safe from the angry destitute. On this particular day, Sonea and her family are being Purged, forced to leave their home and little business behind and start anew, no one cares where. She is just as furious as the next man. She picks up a rock and hurls it at the Magicians, ... and it penetrates their defensive shields. She, a mere slum dweller, has magic and now the Magicians need to find her. *drum roll*
But before I get to the great things, let me vent a bit of frustration. Firstly, she NEEDS an editor, or perhaps an editor with a bit more than a nano-sized short term memory. The amount of times she repeats ideas gets frustrating. I also feel that her writing style leaves a lot to be desired, or perhaps polished (once again that pesky editor requirement, and no, in case you are wondering, the brilliance above is not maintained throughout the books). She can be particularly long-winded, especially in the second book, which is more of a bridging book than anything else. And on occassion I found myself rolling my eyes at some really dim logic. There were also a few occassions where I felt certain scenes in the story had dwindled in fanfic levels, and were merely put there because Canavan 'loved' the idea. (Seriously, you have to agree with Joss Whedon on some things. Editor...?)
But having said all that, as far as a plot and story goes, it is brilliant. Her characters are mostly well defined. The best part is that Sonea is a very strong female character, and I am not just refering to magically. Even the world that it takes place in is brilliantly constructed, with history, political systems, and faults on all sides of the board. This is probably the best part of the story. Canavan had clearly spent years planning it. Reading the books, you feel that this world could really exist. As to the plot, the first book, although setting the story, gives one no clue as to what the final book is about, although, it has enough red herrings to drag the reader along the expected path, creating all the concerns and emotions that are appropriate. The final book is particularly good, as it is impossible to put down after the first few pages. I am really curious now to see what happens in the trilogy which follows that she is currently writing. The political side of the world has really been turned upside down, and I am very eager to see how things pan out, one generation after The Black Magician Trilogy.
Canavan has created a world that is not black and white. I love that idea as it allows for maturer speculation. It also lends more towards believability. It is just a pity that her editor clearly sucks. A better polished writing style would have suited the tale's potential a lot better, and have probably given the plot the audience that it deserved.