"The Magician's Apprentice" is a stand-alone prequel to "The Magicians' Guild" and, for me, it represents a welcome return to form for Trudi Canavan.
I've been a fan of Judi Canavan since I read the first page of " The Magician's Guild" back in 2004. It is still one of my favourite fantasy books. I loved the passion of the characters, the originality of the idea and the rigorous realization of the world it described.
I followed her eagerly through "Novice" and "High Lord" becoming more and more absorbed in the fate of her characters and the texture of her world.
I bought "Priestess of the White" the first of her "The Age Of Five" trilogy in hardback in 2006 and just couldn't get in to it. I think perhaps that I lacked empathy with the idea of serving Gods.
"The Magician's Apprentice" returned me to a world I found more accessible. The grand sweep of the story is impressive, the world is convincing and original and the characters are real people.
For me, the best part of this book is the growing relationship between the two young magician's apprentices. I found myself caring what happened to them and being moved by the way they behaved.
I admire the way Trudi Canavan avoids having clear black and white distinctions between good guy and bad guys. I think she has a very cleat view of what is evil and what is good but she recognizes that most of us have the capacity to be both.
"The Magician's Apprentice" gives an uncomfortable insight into the nature of slavery and freedom and the degrees of difference we experience between total freedom and none at all.
The structure of the book is a little loose for my tastes. The middle section wallows in a realistic but tediously slow start to a conflict. The end of the book moves too quickly away from the personal and the intimate to the historic and world-changing.
The book introduces a new set of players in the world: "The Traitors". They are the focus of Trudi Canavan's "Traitor Spy Trilogy" which begins with "The Ambassador's Mission".