The Black Magician

The Black Magician trilogy is a fantasy novel series written by Australian author Trudi Canavan. The books follow a slum-dwelling girl named Sonea who, although born and raised in the slums of Imardin, discovers that she has natural magical abilities usually restricted to the upper classes. They describe her attempts to escape capture by the Magicians' Guild and gain control of her powers, her struggle to fit in and learn magic, and ultimately her attempts to save Kyralia using the one type of magic forbidden from use. Although the series is composed of only three books, it is accompanied by a prequel entitled The Magician's Apprentice and a sequel series, called The Traitor Spy trilogy. All the novels together that share the same setting of the fictional world of Kyralia are by fans often referred to as "Kyralia series".

The Black Magician Trilogy
The Magicians' Guild
The Novice
The High Lord
AuthorTrudi Canavan
GenreFantasy, Young adult fiction
PublisherOrbit Books
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Preceded byThe Magician's Apprentice (Prequel)
Followed byThe Traitor Spy Trilogy

Plot overview

The Magicians' Guild

This novel is a continuation of 'The Magician's Apprentice', five centuries on. The Magician's Guild now consists of three department: healers, alchemists, and warriors. Sonea, a slum girl, discovers that she has magical ability during the city's annual Purge, in which slum-dwellers are forced out of the outer-circle of the city and back into the slums. With the help of her friend Cery she attempts to evade capture by the Magicians' Guild whom she believes wish to harm her. The Guild, however, must find her in order to teach her to control her powers, because if she is not taught this, she will eventually lose control completely, killing herself and destroying part of the city. Only a magician can teach her this. Finally, on the brink of losing control, she is found and captured by one of the Guild Magicians, a kind man named Rothen who wishes for her to join their ranks. Fergun, another Magician, is one of the many who believe that slum-dwellers, who have never before been allowed into the Guild, should not be Magicians. He captures Cery and tries to use him to blackmail Sonea into lying to the Guild in order to convince them to allow him to take guardianship of her. However, his plan is foiled when Cery is discovered by the High Lord of the Guild, Akkarin. When Fergun thus has lost his hold on Sonea, she comes clean about the blackmail, and Lord Lorlen, the Guild's Administrator, reads Sonea's mind to verify the truth and inadvertently discovers that she earlier had witnessed the Guild's leader, High Lord Akkarin, practicing forbidden black magic.

The Novice

Sonea begins studies at the Guild University as a Novice but her charismatic and influential classmate, Regin, sways the opinion of the other first-year Novices, turning them against her. Through various means (stealing a classmate's pen and putting it in Sonea's private box, setting out rumours of her having killed someone, among other things) he attempts to convince everyone, including the teachers, that she is little more than a thief and far below them in status. Lorlen sends Dannyl, Rothen's former Novice, to Kyralia's neighbouring land Elyne as a second ambassador of Elyne, to follow the research Akkarin did as a young man, trying to discover where he learned black magic without letting Dannyl know what the research is for. High Lord Akkarin discovers that Lorlen knows of his secret (that Akkarin has used black magic), and by reading his mind finds that Sonea and Rothen also possess this knowledge. Akarrin claims guardianship over Sonea in order to keep their silence and she reluctantly moves into the High Lord's Residence. Regin's bullying intensifies until finally Sonea follows an idea given to her by Lord Dorrien, Rothen's son, and challenges Regin to a duel in the Arena and wins. Sonea later witnesses Akkarin kill a Sachakan man, and he explains that the man was a spy sent from Sachaka to kill him, although Sonea doesn't know whether or not to believe him.

The High Lord

A year after her duel with Regin, Sonea still struggles with being under Akkarin's guardianship. Akkarin gives her the journal of a famous Magician-architect who, in his writings, admits to using black magic. He also gave her a history book that had not had all references to black magic removed, which was illegal. Akkarin then takes her into the city and teaches her to read the mind of an unwilling Sachakan man from whom she discovers Sachakan Magicians use black magic regularly, not knowing that Kyralian Magicians do not. The Ichani Kariko sends slaves to Imardin, the capital of Kyralia, where Akkarin kills them before they discover the ban on black magic. Akkarin then explains to Sonea that while he was in Sachaka before becoming a High Lord, he was captured and enslaved by Dakova, an Ichani. Through reading Akkarin's mind, Dakova discovered that the guild does not use the "higher" magic (this is what black magic is called in Sachaka and was called in Kyralia long ago) any more. Another Sachakan magician, an enemy of Dakova taught him black magic and asked to kill Dakova. Akkarin killed Dakova and escaped to Guild and became the High Lord. Kariko, an Ichani, the brother of Dakova seeks revenge for his brother's death. Sonea, worried for Akkarin, convinces him to teach her black magic. Later, the Guild discovers their use of black magic and outcasts them to Sachaka. Kariko discovers this and invades Kyralia. Akkarin and Sonea sneak back into Kyralia and to Imardin where the Guild is attempting, and failing, to protect the city from the Sachakans. Enlisting the help of the Thieves and slum-dwellers, Akkarin and Sonea defeat the Ichani. In their final battle, however, Akkarin is fatally injured by Kariko and dies by giving all his power to Sonea,while fighting with the Ichani. Sonea is left alone bearing his child. Since Sonea is the only magician who has the knowledge of the black magic, she becomes the Black Magician of the Guild. She also sets up a hospice to help the people living in the slums.


Canavan notes that inspiration for her writing comes from "books I've read (fiction and non-fiction), the news, TV, radio, films, music, people I talk to — be they friends or just some stranger I struck up a conversation with. There are stories everywhere." However, the inspiration for the first chapter of The Magicians' Guild came from the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. She saw a news report which explained that before the Olympics started, trucks drove around the city gathering homeless people and took them to other cities. Later that night she dreamt that she "was one among hundreds of people being driven out of a city... by magicians." The crowd threw stones at the Magicians, as the slum-dwellers do during the Purge in The Magicians' Guild. However, Canavan threw magic instead, inspiring Sonea's actions. The basis of the book, Magicians with latent magical abilities requiring "expert tuition", was an idea she had already stored away.[1]

Major characters

  • Sonea – A natural magician who initially hides from the Magicians' Guild in the slums where she was brought up, leading to prejudice and bullying from the other novices, especially Regin, who she is forced to defeat in a duel. Her guardianship belongs to Lord Rothen, and they develop a strong father-daughter bond. She discovers it was the High Lord using black magic (Administrator Lorlen read her mind) and believes he is evil or attempting to gain power. When he finds out he has her taken away from Rothen as his apprentice as a hostage, leading her to hate him. This is changed when she discovers his real reasons for doing this, after which she offers to help. Initially he refuses but gives in, and after a time they are discovered and exiled. During this period they fall in love, though Akkarin attempts to resist in loyalty to his first (dead) love, a Sachakan bed slave. He gives in and for the remaining time of his life, they are together and deeply in love. She comes back to Imardin to fight the Ichani invasion, during which Akkarin is killed, after which she discovers she is pregnant with his child. Her parents are both dead, though she has an aunt and uncle still alive.
  • Ceryni – Cery is Sonea's friend who finds himself infatuated with her during her time in the slums and in the University. He later becomes involved with an Sachakan woman when he realizes Sonea is in love with Akkarin. He is quick-witted, and a skilled street fighter, attributes necessary to his line of work first as a pickpocket, but later as a Thief. Cery's father worked for the Thieves until he "squimped", or betrayed them, a fact that he keeps to himself. Cery's life goal is to set foot in every important building in Imardin, a goal he eventually achieves.
  • High Lord Akkarin – The High Lord of the Guild, Akkarin is one of the most powerful Magicians of his time. Although his strength seemed to match his friend Lorlen's, he left the Guild soon after graduation to explore (though he claimed he was gathering information on ancient magic). When he returned he was exceptionally stronger. Until he takes over Sonea's guardianship, no one in Kyralia (except the Sachakans - including his servant Takan) knows why, but he reveals to Sonea that it is because he practices (forbidden) black magic. Akkarin is a dark character whose silent and mysterious demeanor was influenced by his travels after his education during which he was captured by a Sachakan Magician and forced into slavery. It was during this slavery that he fell in love with the bed-slave of his master and learned black magic in order to escape. When the Ichani began sending spies to Imardin to discover truths, he finds and kills them in order to dissuade rumours (spread by the brother of the Sachakan Ichani he killed to escape slavery) that the Guild has banned Higher Magic (which includes the absorption of another's power - which can regenerate - in order to gain immense power beyond the natural level) and have called it "Black Magic", this would mean the guild is weak and Kyralia vulnerable. Due to his love and loyalty for the slave-girl (whose master killed her for extra power) and secret life, he never married or had children, though many women have ambitions regarding him and he is frequently described as extremely handsome. When Akkarin discovers Sonea, Lord Rothen and Lord Lorlen know of his use of black magic he formally claims her guardianship without question (his position as High Lord grants him this privilege) but uses her as a hostage to prevent Lorlen and Rothen from exposing him, thereby preventing him from killing the spies and/or revealing Black Magic as banned to the Sachakans and spies, leading to an invasion. However, he is eventually framed for the murder of a guild magician, and while he is with Sonea killing a Sachakan spy (soon to be revealed as the first Ichani to be sent to Kyralia) his residence is found empty, and searched. Here the Guild discovers books on black magic in Sonea's room, since the learning or seeking of learning of black magic is forbidden, the magician's are encouraged to break into the basement of the residence, protected by a magical lock, and here a trunk full of books explaining black magic is found. When Akkarin returns, he is trialed. He explains his past and the threat from Sachaka, yet is still exiled for his use of black magic (which is better than the original punishment of execution). He is sent to the nearest country, not of the Allied Land. This is Sachaka. Sonea is offered to stay with the Guild, though she may never leave its premises and can never have a position of authority. Sonea, enraged (that they, knowing the hatred of Sachakans and the Ichani, would send Akkarin to his death, yet keep her here in case the threat was genuine), angrily refuses and is sent to exile with Akkarin. This she accepts in hopes of being able to be used as a source of power by Akkarin so he may remain alive, and still be able to save Kyralia when the time comes. While in the Sachakan wastelands, it is discovered that Sonea has had feelings for Akkarin as he has had for her, and once confirmed, they fall in love, though he attempts to resist any relations, and says it is "improper" for the 13 year age difference, when in truth, Sonea has been testing his loyalty with his first love. After minutes of consideration, he gives in. Akkarin, still intending to help prevent the invasion, travels back to Imardin with Sonea. They work with the Thieves to prevent the invasion and are successful, though many are killed, including Akkarin. He dies protecting Kyralia. He is tricked into allowing a weapon into his shield and is stabbed by the Ichani's dagger. He does not let Sonea use magic or time healing him, arguing that if she does, they will both die and fail. Sonea defeats two of the remaining three Ichani but finds her power failing. Feeling one last slither of power, she uses it to kill the last. She looks down at Akkarin still in her arms, to find him staring past her, his eyes open and out of focus, with a smile on his lips. Realisation hits her, she sends her senses within him and finds no life energy. She realises he had given her that last vital sliver of power in order to kill the Ichani, and left nothing in himself, to maintain his life. Sonea cries, with herself cradled over his body, never knowing she is pregnant with his son.
  • Lord Rothen – A Kyralian Magician who specializes in Alchemy. Rothen, although a widower, has a son who lives in a small village at the edge of Kyralia as a Healer. He is the first to witness Sonea's use of magic during the Purge, and leads the investigation to find her in the slums. Rothen is kind and accepting, as shown by his willingness to take Sonea in despite public opinion of her and his efforts to help his former Novice, Dannyl, overcome his problems as a student, not realizing the stories were true and Dannyl was gay. He is elected as the new Head of Alchemic Studies after the Ichani Invasion.
  • Administrator Lorlen – A Kyralian magician and former Healer who runs the day to day aspects of the guild and organizes the University. Close friends with Akkarin, he is devastated when he discovers Akkarin using black magic, not knowing the reason. He used to be of similar strength before Akkarin surpassed him on his travels, and Akkarin hinted that they were both similar in strength to Sonea, hinting that they were potentially naturals. He is unmarried and cares for Sonea as a father, and feels helpless when she is "taken hostage" by Akkarin. Akkarin forces him wear a blood gem in the form of a ruby ring. This ring enables Akkain to hear and see what Lorlen sees, hears and thinks. Akkarin uses this to prevent Lorlen exposing him, although when Akkarin is exposed regardless, he uses it to soften his sentence and communicate with Akkarin. Loren begins to believe Akkarin's story during the trial. Lorlen dies protecting Imardin. Soon after killing one Ichani (with the help of surrounding magicians - one Ichani is all they can manage before exhaustion) another Ichani causes a house to collapse with him inside. Still believing Akkarin is in Sachaka, he calls for Akkarin to help Imardin via the Blood Gem. Once Akkarin arrives he refuses to let him heal him as his broken bones and ruptured organs would take much time and power to heal, and every slither is needed in killing the Ichani. He dies in peace after questioning Akkarin briefly with his last breaths. He dies knowing why Akkarin had not replied to the many calls he had sent (to ensure the Ichani could not find out, ensuring an element of surprise). He is in peace knowing that his friend has returned and Imardin is safe, and that Sonea is alive. He then dies leaving Akkarin, his closest friend for 18 years, in pain.
  • Lord Dannyl – A Kyralian magician who specialises in Alchemy; his hobby is devising a way to transfer mental images onto paper. A former novice of Lord Rothen, Dannyl is charming and friendly but has few friends. He is later elected as the Second Guild Ambassador to Elyne. Throughout the second and third books, Dannyl struggles with his sexual orientation, and it is revealed that he has been suppressing any "unnatural feelings" he felt towards men. However, at the beginning of the third book, Dannyl learns to accept these feelings and embarks on a relationship with his assistant, Tayend of Tremmelin even though he is aware of the dire consequences it might bring.

Other characters

  • Lord Balkan – Head of the Warriors of the Magicians' Guild of Kyralia, and the youngest of the three Higher Magicians. Plays a major role in organizing the defense of Kyralia during the Ichani invasion. It is hinted that he succeeds Akkarin as High Lord after his death.
  • Lady Vinara – A stern but compassionate middle-aged lady who is Head of Healers of the Magicians' Guild of Kyralia. It is implied that she takes a keen interest in Sonea in the pretext of potentially gaining a powerful ally in the future. Remains as Head of Healers after the Ichani Invasion, and volunteers to assist Dorrien as one of Sonea's teachers after she is reaccepted into the guild (after Akkarin's death). Sonea is then given the title "Black Magician".
  • Lord Sarrin – An elderly white haired magician, Lord Sarrin is Head of the Alchemists of the Magicians' Guild of Kyralia. Was given the responsibility of reading Akkarin's books and learning black magic during the Ichani invasion. Perished during the invasion and is replaced by Lord Peakin.
  • Lord Fergun – A weak magician of House Maron. Lord Fergun was struck by a stone during the Purge, which was revealed to have been Sonea's doing. It is credited as the first moment that Sonea released her magic. Humiliated by the experience, Lord Fergun captures Sonea's friend Cery and keeps him hostage under the University as a means to blackmail her. His evil deeds are later discovered and he is sent to a distant Fort as punishment. This is discovered to be the Fort of the Sachakan Northern Pass. He dies by the hands of a female Ichani during the Invasion.
  • Dorrien – Rothen's only son, Dorrien is a Healer in a remote village. Befriends Sonea on his first return to the Guild upon meeting her; and helps her think of ways to prevent Regin from tormenting her. It is Dorrien who suggested the idea of a public challenge to Regin, which finally ended the tormenting. Was romantically involved with Sonea at first, but she ended it after being "taken hostage" by Akkarin in fear of his safety. Dorrien did not pursue her after he discovers her heart belongs to Akkarin. Volunteers to assist Sonea in her training as a Healer upon her expulsion from the Guild.
  • Regin – A Kyralian novice of House Paren. Descendant of a wealthy Trades Master who was part of a group dedicated to preventing Sachakan's from invading Kyralia 600 years before. Regin sets out to make life difficult for Sonea in their first year as novices. He is determined to best her in everything, and frequently plays pranks on her, like ruining her experiments and pouring ink on her notes. Is also revealed to have attempted to set her up as a thief in the eyes of the Guild several times. Was defeated in a public challenge by Sonea. Later redeems himself by assisting in the capture of an Ichani. His guardianship belongs to Lord Garrel, his uncle.
  • Jonna – Sonea's aunt and one of her only living relatives. Takes care of Sonea upon her parent's death, and constantly worries about her niece. Is later persuaded by Sonea to come live with her after she reveals she is pregnant with Akkarin's child. Has two children with Ranel, Sonea's uncle, Kerrel and Hania.
  • Ranel – Sonea's uncle. Has two children with his wife Jonna, Kerrel and Hania.
  • Tayend of Tremmelin – An Elyne who is a scholar of the Great Library. Has great magical potential but refused entry to the Guild for fear of them discovering he was gay. Assists Ambassador Dannyl in his research for ancient magic, and later enters into a relationship with him.
  • Takan – A former Sachakan slave and Akkarin's loyal servant. Is said to be very strong, and is Akkarin's main source of power. Also a gifted cook.

Minor characters

  • King Merin – King of Kyralia, who is hated by slum dwellers for continuing the annual Purge. He rules in favour of casting Akkarin and Sonea out of the Allied Lands as he is worried of the implications of having black magicians out of his control. Later reveals that he hopes that he was wrong, and that he always found Akkarin honourable.
  • Lord Osen – A young Kyralian magician who later takes over as Administrator of the Guild after Lorlen's death.
  • Lord Yikmo – A young Vindo magician who was Sonea's Warrior Skills teacher. Is killed in the Ichani Invasion.
  • Director Jerrik – Described as a sour-faced old man, Jerrik is the University Director of the Magicians' Guild of Kyralia.
  • Tania – Servant of Lord Rothen, Tania is very fond of both Sonea and Rothen, This is shown by her reporting of Rothen taking nemmin to Yaldin and Ezrille.
  • Yaldin and Ezrille – An elderly couple who were friends of Rothen's mentor, Lord Margen, they are Rothen's closest friends in the Guild. Ezrille often complains of her despair of finding Dannyl a wife.
  • Other Novices – Alend, Gennyl, Kano, Hal, Benon, Trassia, Porril, Narron, Issle and Bina.
  • Thieves – Faren, Gorin, Gol, Ravi


  1. Canavan, Trudi. "About My Books". Retrieved 2010-07-05.
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