Book Review: Thief’s Magic

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From Trudi Canavan, the bestselling author of The Black Magician trilogy, comes Thief’s Magic. The first in an entirely new trilogy, Millenium’s Rule. A friend of mine told me about The Black Magician which she found too ambitious and limited on its delivery, and while not the only factor in my decision to give it a miss- it was a main one. So once again I went into a bestselling author’s new series without having read their previous work.

Better blind than not at all, I always say.

Initial thoughts? I found it rather so-so. It took me a while to get into it- I do apologise- because the book’s a slow-starter. Sure there are some great sequences of adventure, but it isn’t as engaging as you’d like it to be. You’re introduced to one of the main characters, Tyen, an archeology and magic student at a magic academy in an industrial world powered by magic (sounds steam-punk with magic but not really) when he discovers a sentient book, Vella, who used to be a woman. No, really, she made some bad life choices, got in with the wrong guy, and got turned into a book- made from her flesh and bone no less. Not the best way to end a relationship.

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Then you’re introduced to Rielle, who’s the other protagonist, stuck in an oppressive universe where you can’t use magic if you’re not a Priest. If you do, you’re technically stealing from the Angels and that’s a huge no-no. The society’s a lot more stuffy, and there’s a lot of ‘your reputation this, your reputation that’ to be had. Which would have been cool had there been a point to it other than reinforcing the ‘this is a primative world’ but both Tyen and Rielle’s worlds are rather primative in regards to social equality of men and women in all classes. Tyen’s school won’t teach girls magic, Rielle’s society don’t recognise women as artists and none of this is changed by the end of the book. 

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I can say that Canavan’s worldbuilding is top notch, you can almost feel the paint textures described by Rielle, or want to cough from imaginary dust in the tomb Tyen initially finds Vella. The problem is that it feels like you’re only really scratching the surface of both Tyen and Rielle’s worlds. And as far as characters in a ‘coming-of-age’ story go? I can’t say that either Tyen or Rielle were at all relateable or sympathetic.

You want to root for Tyen, but then he gets hung up on that book and you think- dude just put the book down for a moment and really assess your situation here. Or use the knowledge Vella can get from other people intelligently. And Rielle? Honey, no. As someone who loves strong heroines who take their destinies into their own hands, I felt that Rielle lacked that element of self-possession. She was ruled by her situation, tugged along by the plot, and any decision she made a reaction to her surroundings.

The plot itself had all the makings of a great fantasy, but while the story itself was verbose, you didn’t feel much of anything save for frustration at some poor decision-making on both characters’ parts. If you’re looking for something to keep you occupied I believe this is your kind of book, but don’t expect satisfaction. The anti-climax is strong in this one.

Beyond this point SPOILERS lie in wait for you, so if you haven’t yet read it maybe steer clear.

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Right, so the fact that Tyen and Rielle never meet really annoyed me. You keep expecting them to but they don’t. There are a heck of a lot of pages to this book, and I understand that this is the first in the trilogy so there should be a lot of setting up in order to really allow the author to develop characters and plot in the next book, however it sort of feels like you’re left abruptly at the end there. There’s no payoff to some of the events that ocurr come that abrupt ending. The anti-climax is strong in this one.

And because of this I NEED to know what’s going to happen next, does Tyen ever get Vella changed back into a woman? Do he and Rielle actually ever cross paths? It felt as though you were reading two different novels, with no real connection between the two save for the protagonists getting betrayed by people they trusted. So if you’re to take away one thing from this novel it’s that you’re better off trusting no one.

Honourable Mentions:

– The romance factor had me shaking my head quite a bit. From Tyen’s lack of game to Rielle’s ‘straight out of an afterschool special’ romance arcs. I shipped the two antagonists in Tyen’s storyline more than I did Rielle and her lover. And Tyen’s in love with a book- a true bibliophile. So I’ll patiently wait for the next book.

– I bet the ‘angel’ at the end there in Rielle’s story is but a sorcerer from Tyen’s world, or another. 

Look out for our next fantasy book review: Oversight by Charlie Fletcher.

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