Tuesday, August 3, 2010

[Review] The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan (Traitor Spy Trilogy 1)

This is a straightforward enjoyable new fantasy series from Trudi Canavan. We are back in The Black Magician Universe only now Black Magician Sonea's son Lorkin is grown up and ready to spread his wings and forces of evil are once again afoot in the city of Imardin.

Title: The Ambassador's Mission

Series: Traitor Spy Trilogy 1
Author: Trudi Canavan
Genre: Fantasy
Jacket art:
Steve Stone [portfolio]
Hardback: 528 pages
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Reviewer: Ove Jansson

Order:Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

As the son of late High Lord Akkarin, savior of the city, and Sonea, the former street urchin turned Black Magician, Lorkin has a legacy of heroism and adventure to live up to. So when Lord Dannyl takes the position of Guild Ambassador to Sachaka, Lorkin volunteers to be his assistant in the hopes of making his mark on the world.

When news come that Lorkin is in danger, the law forbids Black Magicians leaving the city forces Sonea to trust that Dannyl will save him, and now Cery needs her as never before. Someone has been assassinating Thieves, and when his family is targeted he finds evidence that this Thief Hunter uses Magic.

Either a member of the Guild is hunting down the Thieves one by one, or there is - once again - a rogue on the streets of Imardin. But this one has full control of their powers - and is willing to kill with them.

The Author

Trudi Canavan is relatively new for me. I started reading The Black Magician Trilogy (The Magicians’ Guild, Novice, High Lord) after a slightly tippsy literary discussion on a company outing in November 2009. A colleague borrowed me the trilogy and I was hooked, thank you M. I also read Age of Five trilogy (Priestess of the White, Last of the Five, Voice of the Gods) and I liked it too.


The jacket has a fine staff wielding figure in some kind of fighting stance overlaid with a tower/cityscape and some signs on it.

There is three good maps at the beginning of the book over The Magicans' Guild of Kyralia, The City of Imardin and The Land of Kyralia. There is no maps of Sachaka where most of the ambassador's adventures take place.

At the back of the book there is a Glossary of animals, plants/food, clothing and weaponry, countries/peoples in the region, titles/positions and other terms that you will find useful.

There is also Lord Dannyl's Guide to Slum Slang and Acknowledgements at the end.


Sonea was a street urchin, a rogue mage and then she became a black magician in the first series The Black Magician Trilogy. Her boyfriend gave his last power so she could defeat the Sachaka invaders and save the city. They fought the invaders with the help of her childhood friend Cery and the thieves guild. Some time later she gave birth to Lorkin. Now Lorkin is a young man living in the shadow of his legendary mother. This is explained well in the book


Half of the action takes place in the City of Imardin in Kyralia and the Magicians' Guild so that is fleshed out quite well in glimpses and short backgrounds. For example every year they used to Purge poor people from the inner city before winter, that has stopped now leading to all kinds of interesting changes in the city. It was at one of those Purges Sonea discovered her magic ability. The author fills in the background and social settings into the action and suspense in a way that works well for me.

The land of Sachaka where Lorkin goes as the Ambassador's assistant is not as well described but then its not there Lorkin end up.The Ambassadors long term job is to get Sachaka to free it's slaves and to join the Alliance. The travel there gives a good general orientation. By the time the book ends we have a glimpse of the underground Traitor society and their hidden city. I will not ruin the surprises for you by telling you details.


There are two plot lines in this story Lorkin's in Sachaka and Sonea's in Imardin.

Sonea is restricted to temple grounds and the hospital as one of two Black Magicians in the Guild. If she ever leaves them she will be exiled outside the alliance never to return. Black Magic is powerful and the Guild doesn't trust anyone wielding it. Cery, her childhood friend is a prominent thief. But someone is killing thieves in the city. They call the murderer the Thief Hunter. When Cery is at a meeting with another crime boss named Skellin his family is killed. Evidence shows that magic was involved. He turns to Sonea for help, either there is someone in the Guild doing the killings or they have a rogue mage in the city. They find some unlikely allies in the hunt that goes through a for me a changed city. Much have changed since we saw them last.

Sonea's son Lorkin goes as an ambassador's assistant to Sachaka. Sonea fear for his life as Sachaka is known for family blood feuds even for outcasts like the black magicians that invaded Kyralia she killed. He leaves anyway together with Ambassador Dannyl. Both he and Dannyl are really there to study the history of magic. Dannyl because he is writing a history of magic and Lorkin because he wants to find new kinds of magic like his father did. Quit soon after their arrival there is an attempt on Lorkins life but he is rescued and have to flee with the slave underground who calls themselves the Traitors.

There is also what I believe is a trilogy plot line, someone is subverting the kingdom of Kyralia with Rot a new and habit forming drug. What is their long time goal? I think you will get some of the answers at the end of this book.

I liked the narration that switches between Sonea and Lorkin, particularly when it stayed with the one where things heated up until some resolution before switching back.


The characters are easy to love and be interested in even if I sometimes feels that there could be more challenges for them. I am a character guy, I like to like my characters, I like when it goes well for them but they have to have challenges that presses them and here Lorkin got it but Sonea never breaks a sweat.

The Black Magician Sonea we know from previous books, she feels frustrated by all the restrictions surrounding her especially when she learns her son has disappeared. She also involve herself in Guild politics when it comes to change old unfair rules that prohibit the mages from lower classes to socialize with their kin as any poor is of 'dubious character'. Her helping Cery hunt down the Thief Hunter is in fact a small part of her story that is mostly about changing the system.

For Sonea's son Lorkin this is a coming of age story. He is out of his legendary mother's shadow and has to stand on his own. He gets to experience life in Sachaka from the bottom in an illuminating and character building way. I liked the clever way he handled the Ambassador's Mission and his father's promise.

A love interest is also nice spice to any story and Lorkin's is just what the doctor ordered.

My View

It is great being back in the Black Magician Universe again with Sonea and her friends. The Ambassador's Mission is enjoyable straightforward fantasy with easy to love characters and a bit of Fantasy Opera and Romance in it.

The Ambassador's Mission works as a stand alone novel if you want to start with Trudi Canavan but you will understand more of the background and the characters if you read The Black Magician Trilogy before.

The Ambassador's Mission is a great start for a series, I will definitely get the rest.

Rating: 9/10

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