The High Lord

The High Lord is the third book in The Black Magician series by Trudi Canavan. Published in 2003, it is the sequel to The Novice and The Magicians' Guild and concludes the story of Sonea, a former slum-girl discovered to possess magical potential. Having earned the respect of her fellow students and her teachers, Sonea must face the terrible secret of the High Lord's use of forbidden Black Magic.

The High Lord
First edition cover
AuthorTrudi Canavan
SeriesThe Black Magician series
GenreFantasy novel
PublisherATOM Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages647 pp (UK edition)
Preceded byThe Novice 
Followed byThe Ambassador's Mission 

Plot summary

A year has passed since Sonea had challenged Regin to a public duel and had beaten Regin by one bout. Since that victory, she has finally won the respect she deserves, not only as a novice with exceptional power, but also as the High Lord's favorite. But even with this new respect, she still has one challenge left to face: Akkarin. Still unable to shake off the memory she has after the duel, she continues to avoid Akkarin.

Ceryni, Sonea's old friend, now has a powerful position with the Thieves. He has a task which he must perform which could cost him his life. But that task is not a secret. A strange woman, named Savara, with great skill knows of this task and wishes to help Cery, however he will not accept her aid as he does not trust her.

Akkarin surprises Sonea by showing her a book, which is an autobiography of Coren, a famous architect. This book reveals that Coren himself had discovered and no doubt used black magic. Sonea is amazed at this knowledge but is suspicious why he has shown this information to her. Akkarin is pleased that Sonea has read the book and gives her another one which is nearly 500 years old. From reading it, Sonea discovers that many centuries ago black magic was referred to as 'higher magic.' The book tells of a novice who desired power and used the higher magic to obtain more power by killing many magicians and absorbing their power. The Guild, in the end, suffered greatly from confronting the novice. They decided to store the knowledge of higher magic and rename it black magic. They sealed the knowledge, hoping that no one would take advantage of that power, but only use it in the greatest need and the knowledge was hidden in a secret passage of the University. The author also tells of a threat from Sachaka, that the Sachakans will have vengeance for losing an ancient war. Only the Head of Warriors knew of this secret weapon, however the knowledge was later lost.

As Sonea starts to absorb this new information, Akkarin takes her into the city in disguise. Sonea realises that the Thieves are in on a secret with Akkarin as they use their 'private road.' Sonea and Akkarin come to a room face to face with a captured Sachakan slave who was sent to see how weak the Guild was. Akkarin starts to search the man, and finds a gold tooth with a red gem inside it; the gem is a blood gem, used by their masters to see and hear what the holder sees, hears and does. Akkarin then tells Sonea that he will teach her to read a mind of an unwilling person. Struggling at first, Sonea discovers the name of the Sachakan. She also discovers that Akkarin was a slave. Amazed and shocked, Sonea starts seeing memories of a group called the Ichani, powerful magicians that have been labeled as outcasts by the Sachakan King. Sonea is then taken outside while Akkarin stays inside and kills the man using black magic.

Back at the Guild, Sonea starts to question everything she knows and has been told. She misses a class, instead finding solitude at a stream in the forest, a secret place that Dorrien had shown her. To her surprise, she is met by Akkarin as it was also where Akkarin and Lorlen used to go when they were young. Akkarin begins telling Sonea about his past, about how he entered Sachaka and was captured by an Ichani named Dakova who easily overpowered Akkarin. Whilst in servitude, Akkarin and his fellow slaves, all latent magicians, constantly had their power absorbed by Dakova. For five years, Akkarin was a magical source of energy for Dakova, but everything changed when Dakova was attacked by a fellow Ichani. Though Dakova won, he was left weak. He borrowed slaves from his brother Kariko. After some time Dakova found a previous enemy of his and decides to kill him. Upon arriving at an abandoned mine, the floor gives way and Akkarin falls down, only to be saved by another Ichani. The Ichani made a deal with Akkarin to spare his life if he killed Dakova, Akkarin agrees and is taught black magic by the Ichani.

Akkarin headed back with wine laced with a sleeping drug. While Dakova drank the wine, Akkarin then killed the slaves, but when he came to Takan he could not take his dormant power because they had helped each other at times of need. When he came to Dakova, he took his power as quickly as possible, killing him in the process. With the deed done and now free, Akkarin then started his long journey home without food thinking he would die on the journey back to the guild but Takan followed him with a supply of food and drink and became Akkarin's servant. Sonea wondered why he had told her and asks him, his only answer is that someone else needs to know. As the gong strikes Akkarin ends the tale and tells Sonea to get back to her classes.

Meanwhile Lord Dannyl has been instructed by Akkarin to infiltrate a group of Elyne nobles, led by a powerful Dem, attempting to illicitly learn magic. Having managed to enter the Dem's circle of trust by having them learn the "false secret" of his relation with Tayend, he begins teaching Farand, a young man whose powers have been unleashed but who has not learnt Control. Slowly, Dannyl gains more trust from the Dem. When Dannyl enters Farand's mind, he realises the Elyne King used Farand for eavesdropping. Farand had overheard the King order a political assassination, because of this Farand was prevented from joining the Guild by the King.

Back at the Guild, Sonea is unable to sleep. She is continuously replaying what Akkarin had told her, and wondering why he told her. She even starts to believe that black magic isn't necessarily evil, only the wielder of the magic can determine that. She starts to wonder what would happen if Akkarin was to die and no one would be able to carry on the secret struggle with the Sachakan spies. She decides to tell Akkarin that she wants to learn black magic. The next day when Sonea tells Akkarin that she wants to learn, he refuses, he starts to change her mind saying that if she is caught, she will be executed. However her mind is made up, Akkarin refuses but says that he has another use for Sonea. He informs her that, if she was willing, she can be a source of power for him. He says he will only teach her black magic if the Ichani invade Kyralia. Even though she isn't helping in the way she thought she would, she is still pleased to assist Akkarin.

Lord Dannyl visits Farand once more to assure everyone that he has learnt Control. When in Farand's mind, Dannyl starts questioning him. Before Dannyl can get any answers, Farand is aware of what Dannyl is doing and breaks the connection. Revealing him as a traitor, Farand tells everyone that more magicians are on their way, but don't know Dannyl's location. However Dannyl informs the group of rebels that that won't be the case. Farand perceives Dannyl's and the other magician's conversation and agrees with him. The other nobles are apprehended, Farand and the Dem surrender.

At night, Sonea is worried about Akkarin, since he is not back for hunting the latest spy. (This is the first indication that, where she shortly before hated Akkarin and wanted him dead, now she starts to be positively concerned for him.) Once he returns, Sonea realises that the fight must have been terrible, and that Akkarin lost. She and Takan follow him to his bedroom and Akkarin starts filling in the details about the new spy. Akkarin believes that this new spy is another slave, but Takan tells Akkarin that she must be an Ichani, as she is cunning and strong. Takan once again tells Akkarin to teach Sonea black magic for help in case he dies, Akkarin finally agrees that he will teach Sonea tomorrow night.

Cery is surprised that Akkarin lost to the latest spy, and vows to find her again. Savara enters Cery's room saying that if Cery had trusted her, she could have dealt with the new spy, unlike Akkarin. Savara then continues, saying that she knows the spy and wishes revenge for a past act. However she realises that now that Akkarin knows about the new spy, she cannot intervene without revealing herself, something she does not wish to do. Cery promises that she can hunt the next spy.

The next day, while Lorlen and Lord Sarrin discuss building plans, Lord Osen informs them that there has been a massacre last night, a magician and his family have been murdered. All the victims had shallow cuts, which weren't fatal wounds. Osen also reports that there was a major battle between some unknown magicians. Lorlen decides that someone should go to the location of the fight and see if it had been magical.

At night, Sonea makes her way to the underground passage to start her training in black magic. Akkarin informs Sonea that all living things have a natural barrier. With black magic, the idea is to break the barrier and draw their magical power from them. Sonea, under Akkarin's instructions, starts to learn how to take power, with Takan as her source. Once she is done, she heals him and is given some more books on black magic to read.

While heading back to Imardin, Dannyl and Farand start talking about the future, and what consequences he and the other rebels would have to face. Realising that he is tired, Dannyl tells Farand to get some sleep, as he starts to leave Dannyl notices that Farand's lips are blue and comes to the conclusion that he has been poisoned. Dannyl then calls on Lady Vinara using telepathy, she informs him of how to purge the poison. Dannyl barricades the door to prevent anyone stopping him from healing Farand.

Akkarin takes Sonea to show her how to defeat the spies, the Thieves inform them of where she is but when they reach her rooms she is not there. They look around, hearing footsteps Sonea hides in an alcove. The spy enters and talks to Akkarin before they start attacking one another. The spy moves closer to the alcove and Sonea tries to stay hidden, the combat is causing damage to be building and Sonea is forced to use her shield. She finds a ring in the alcove, one worn by an elder of a noble house.

A heavy blow is struck and the alcove collapses, however Sonea creates a hollow with her shield, she then realises the spy is not a slave but a powerful Ichani. A hole is formed as the hollow begins to collapse, Sonea then sees that the Ichani is moving backwards and will soon detect her. Sonea drops her shield and the Ichani's passes over her undetected, she then slashes the Ichani's neck with a piece of wood and drains her power, killing the woman. Akkarin and Sonea then return to the Guild.

The Magicians Guild have learned that Akkarin and Sonea are using black magic and believe they may be responsible for the murders. They are tried and convicted of using forbidden magic, but not of the murders. Akkarin is sentenced to exile in Sachaka, Sonea is allowed to remain but refuses saying that, if alone, Akkarin will be killed. Unsure about Akkarin's explanation of an imminent Ichani invasion they are both exiled.

Akkarin and Sonea are forced to hide in the wastes of Sachaka where they are pursued by a pair of Ichani but manage to elude them. Meanwhile the Ichani invade Kyralia, easily overcoming the (reinforced) border defenses and slaughtering over twenty Guild magicians. They then advance on the capital Imardin, but are slowed by an ambush. It seems that only Akkarin and Sonea will be able to hold back the Ichani invasion as the Guild magicians are no match for them.

Whilst in Sachaka, Sonea develops feelings for Akkarin, but tries to hide them. However Sonea awakes Akkarin from a nightmare and accidentally senses his feelings for her - seeing herself through his eyes, she sees a far more beautiful and alluring woman than she ever saw when looking in the mirror. Akkarin is hesitant because he argues he is 13 years older than Sonea, but Sonea doesn't seem to care. They kiss, and later sleep together. As eventually comes out, Akkarin's recurring nightmare was about a woman fellow slave, with whom he had been in love during his captivity in Sachaka, and whose death he witnessed and was unable to prevent. Finding a new love with Sonea lays this ghost, and Akkarin ceases to have such nightmares.

The two then return to the borders of Kyralia where they encounter Dorrien, who isn't too happy to see them there, he escorts them back to the border but they are ambushed by one of the Ichani (called Parika), who is eventually killed by Sonea using Healing Magic, and Akkarin drains his energy. The Ichani have no knowledge of Healing Magic, and are surprised when Sonea heals a cut in front of them. The three return to Dorrien's small home and discuss possible plans, they seem to decide one. Whereby Sonea and Akkarin will secretly return to Imardin, their city.

Akkarin and Sonea return to Imardin and enlist the aid of the Thieves, including Cery, Sonea's old friend and slum dwellers in fighting the Ichani who now roam the city searching for victims to strengthen them. Sonea and Akkarin search the slum dwells for any magical potential and take it to strengthen their power, however, unlike the Ichani, they do not kill their helpers. The night before, Cery gives Akkarin and Sonea some changes of clothes, including full length, black, magician robes.

Sonea and Akkarin are able to pick off many of the Ichani one by one, while another is killed with the help of Regin, Sonea's old Novice enemy. One Ichani is then killed by the Thieves and another by the Guild. Eventually only three Ichani remain. But Lorlen is badly wounded, and tells Akkarin that he understands why he did what he did, he asks if Sonea is ok, and then he dies and Akkarin takes his ring.

Unfortunately, the three Ichani left have been absorbing the magic from various magically constructed buildings, and increasing in strength. Before the remaining Ichani can absorb the magic held in the Guild buildings (including the Arena, which has masses of power around it), Akkarin and Sonea force the three into a final battle at the Guild. A climactic battle ensues and the Ichani begin to tire. However, the lead Ichani, Kariko, lays a trap and a knife springs out of the ground and stabs Akkarin through the chest.

As Akkarin is unable to fight, he persuades Sonea to make use of and channel his energy to supplement her dwindling reserves and with that combination of force, Sonea manages to destroy the last three Ichani. However, in doing so, all of Akkarin's life force is absorbed by Sonea, and he dies. 'He had given her too much power. He had given her everything.'

Sonea deeply grieves for him and becomes extremely depressed, locking herself in her old room at Rothen's lodgings and losing the will to live - totally exhausted, physically and emotionally, and though never having been formally married to him, feels herself very much as Akkarin's widow.

Whilst Dannyl and Tayend, his assistant and lover, return to Elyne, the Higher Magicians debate about whom to appoint to various positions in the Guild and appoint Rothen as the Head of Alchemic Studies. Lord Osen will probably replace the late Lord Lorlen. Lord Balkan is expected to replace Akkarin.

The Higher Magicians are reconciled to the need to have a recognised Black Magician, since otherwise the Guild and the country would be completely helpless before further invasions - and Sonea is the only possible candidate, since it seems the books left behind by Akkarin do not provide enough information on how to do it. At first they intend to impose on her the condition of not being allowed to leave the Guild premises. However, arguing against that restriction, Rothen explains to them that she joined the guild in order to help the poor, and they reconsider. They rule that if she is to venture out beyond the guild premises, she must be accompanied by an escort, and she must not venture beyond the city slums in which she seeks to aid the poor.

In a matter of months the Guild builds a hospital for the slums, a reversal of the long-standing discriminatory policy whereby the Healing magic was only available to the Aristocratic Houses. Though Sonea has done only three years of training out of the five required of a novice, it is obviously out of the question to treat her as anything but a full-fledged magician; instead, Dorrien (who is still in love with her) and Lady Vinara volunteer, and are formally assigned, to complete Sonea's training as a Healer. She is also to wear black robes from then on, and the High Lord is to wear white.

In the final scene, Sonea spots her Aunt in the queue at the slum hospital with a baby in her arms and tells Rothen to call her over in the office. Her Aunt tells her what the problem is and Sonea gives her the prescriptions for the baby's fever.

Sonea then hesitantly tries to explain to her Aunt that she would like her to come live in the guild with Sonea because she is in need of her help. At first, Sonea's aunt is confused, as is Rothen, but when Sonea taps her belly, Sonea's Aunt understands and they make explanations to Rothen. Sonea is fearful; she is carrying Akkarin's baby and didn't plan for it to happen. Sonea's Aunt smiles and soothingly assures her that she will indeed look after her, at least for a while, to help guide and prepare her for what is to come.

As already disclosed by the writer, Sonea would give birth to a son named Lorkin, who is a major character in the sequel "The Ambassador's Mission".


Former novice of Lord Rothen and High Lord Akkarin, first person to be admitted to the guild from the lower classes and first Guild Black Magician. Sonea, having learned of Akkarin's true nature and his reasons behind learning Black magic, sought to learn the art herself despite having to break the laws of the Guild to do so. She was banished to Sachaka along with Akkarin when the Guild learned of their practices, and having admitted to killing a woman - a murderer and Sachakan black magician. While in Sachaka the two fall in love and return to Imardin in secret, knowing that the Ichani are heading there also. She fights and kills Kariko, the leader of the Ichani, but doing so causes the death of Akkarin as well. Following that, Sonea loses the will to live. The Guild feel they need her to take the position as the Guild's official Black Magician, or elso to teach somebody elso to take the role. To encourage her, they build a hospital in the slums and allow her to continue her education in healing. Finally, it is revealed that she is pregnant with Akkarin's son.
High Lord Akkarin
Beginning the novel as the main antagonist, Akkarin is Sonea's guardian. Sonea learned of the High Lords' use of Black Magic, so he took her guardianship from Lord Rothen, claiming that she would benefit more from his influence. He is suspected by both Lorlen and Sonea to have committed a series of murders in the city. However it is revealed that Akkarin is not in fact the murderer, but has been trying to prevent the murders for some time. He learned Black magic after being captured and enslaved by a Sachakan outcast (Ichani). He escaped, killing the Ichani, to return to Imardin where he was appointed as High Lord, despite his youth. When Akkarin - and Sonea's - use of Black magic is discovered, both out banished from the Allied Lands and sent to Sachaka. Akkarin and Sonea fall in love, and return to Imardin in secret, knowing that the Ichani are heading there also. When fighting Kariko, the leader of the Ichani, Akkarin gives all of his strength to Sonea and dies as a result.
Lord Rothen
Sonea's former guardian. Rothen is the first third to learn of Akkarin's use of Black Magic. He volunteered to travel into Sachaka in disguise to discover more about the threat of invasion and to potentially seek out Sonea and Akkarin if necessary. He had not yet entered Sachaka when the Ichani invaded. Set to become Head of Alchemical Studies.
Administrator Lorlen
A powerful magician and Akkarin's best friend. Lorlen was the second person to learn of Akkarin's use of Black Magic and the first to recognise it for what it was. He investigated a series of suspicious murders in the city, all the while being monitored by Akkarin through the use of a 'Blood Gem'. Lorlen was killed during the Ichani invasion.
Lord Osen
Lorlen's assistant, has a mutual dislike of Akkarin, he is very distraught by Lorlen's death and later becomes Administrator for the Guild.
Ambassador Dannyl
Second Guild ambassador to Elyne and former novice of Lord Rothen. Dannyl was ordered by Akkarin to investigate and apprehend a group of rebels who sought to learn magic outside of the Guild.
Ceryni (Cery)
Sonea's childhood friend, who is a dwell and now a high level Thief. He works along with Akkarin to quell the Sachakan invaders, he also finds help from a Sachakan female magician named Savara who is very secretive but helpful.
Lord Dorrien
Rothen's son who holds feelings for Sonea. He helps Sonea and Akkarin return to Imardin after witnessing an Ichani attack in his home village where he works as a Healer.
Powerful Ichani magician and nominal leader of the invading Ichani, Kariko is brother of an Ichani killed by Akkarin.
Sonea's old enemy, who had shown considerable ingenuity in devising ways of bullying and baiting her during her first year as a novice, makes a worthier use of his ingenuity, risking himself in order to help trap and kill one of the invading Ichani. Before the battle he apologizes to Sonea for his past conduct and promises to make it up to her, should he survive.

Release details

  • 2003, Australia, Voyager (ISBN 0-7322-7230-0), Pub date ? ? 2003, paperback
  • 2004, UK, Orbit (ISBN 978-1-84149-315-2), Pub date 4 November 2004, paperback
  • 2004, USA, Eos (ISBN 978-0-06-057530-4), Pub date ? September 2004, paperback
  • 2005, UK, Orbit (ISBN 978-1-904233-68-8), Pub date 3 November 2005, hardback

Trudi Canavan has committed to writing a sequel trilogy, the Traitor Spy Trilogy, to be published starting in 2010.


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