Reading a popular author always sets expectations. Mostly the one that my unconscious sets for me is, ‘please let this book/author be good.’ Notice I said ‘good’ not ‘outstanding’. Don’t get me wrong I want to read something that’ll blow me away but I don’t mind reading a work that keeps me moving along with the characters and makes me feel at the end that I’ve spend my time in a pleasurable way. I could have said memorable but I’ve read lots of books that I can no longer remember in detail.
Thief’s Magic is my first Trudi Canavan novel so I had no expectations above ‘please be good’. I don’t know how she’s told her previous tales so I have no experience to compare this against. Thief’s Magic has a great start, a good ending and a middle which feels like it’s going from A to Z using an faulty sat nav.
It’s an ambitious tale to be sure. We swap between two characters and two worlds. Both have different but intersecting takes on magic. In one world we follow Tyren, a student of archeology, who finds a sentient book called Vella, and watch as he struggles to keep her safe. In the other we meet Rielle who has been taught that the use of magic is to steal from the Angels.
Through a series of events each becomes an outsider to their respective societies, which brings me my big issue with the narratives. It often feels like Canavan is kicking the plot along the road or trying to fill time before we get to the end.
I honestly don’t know which it is but ultimately it doesn’t feel smooth. It is trying to do something different so it needs some analyse, as far as I can without spoilers, because there is a veil in the story, which gets lifted at the end, and does make it worth reading.
The real issue is that the two interweaving stories are different paces. One is focused on an adventure and one is focused on the impact of a new relationship: so one is high-paced and one is slow. Both stories contain elements of adventure and romance and I don’t have a problem with the romance. It’s nice to see that. It works and make sense.
The trouble is when you get to the end and know what was planned you may have a different view of the middle. If each story had been released on their own it wouldn’t have worked either. Canavan has set up an opposition which will make for a interesting collision if, though more likely when, they collide.
But to get them to the end they have to be in certain places and it feels that the journeys are a little forced. And going from ‘fast’ to ‘slow’ and back again shows up the limitations of both narratives and the way in which they’re told.
Overall, it’s a good experiment which doesn’t quite work. But the plusses are the application of theories around the source and use of magic does show that Canavan has a clever imagination. It also has characters whose stories you care about. Maybe if it wasn’t a trilogy this part would have been tighter though I don’t know what you’d cut or what you’d add that could possibly replace what you be removed. Guess I’ll know after reading Angel of Storms, which is out in November, what Canavan has planned for Tyren and Rielle