A decade ago, when I read “The Magician’s Guild”, the first of the “Black Magician Trilogy”, I was filled with excitement. Young Sonea’s struggle with her new-found powers, her attempts to understand and survive the upper-class world she was pushed into and the complex loyalties she had to navigate had immediate appeal and, although it was a long book, kept me eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next.
For me, “The Ambassador’s Mission”, the first volume in the “Traitor Spy” trilogy, has none of the magic I found in the “Magician’s Guild”.
It is well written. The ideas are thought through. The characters are as well drawn as in the previous books. Yet the book seems slow. It feels as if Trudi Canavan is thinking: “I have three thick volumes to tell this story, there’s no need to hurry.” Unfortunately, I was left thinking that, if they all go at this pace, I might never make it to the end of book two.
Perhaps it is that the Sonea is now older and more reflective, she has become part of the establishment, while Cery has become an old thief and the head of a family. Perhaps it is just the need to connect this book to the “Black Magician Trilogy” and its prequel, “The Magician’s Apprentice” but I found that I did not have the same passion for these characters and the challenges that they face.
In “The Magician’s Guild”, it mattered to me whether it would be Lord Rothen or the treacherous Lord Fergun who had power over Sonea. In “The Ambassador’s Mission” the death of the whole family of one of the characters barely created an emotional ripple.
As a generation-spanning, fantasy-saga, dealing with a complex world, this is still a book worth reading but set against the last trilogy, I found it disappointing.