Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Ambassadors Mission The Ambassador's Mission
by Trudi Canavan

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten
Maree Pavletich
Jo Foster
Jacqui Smith

The Ambassador’s Mission is the first volume in The Traitor Spy Trilogy, and also a continuation of the story begun in The Black Magician Trilogy. Fortunately, for those unfamiliar with that earlier series this book can be read independently without any knowledge of what went before. Ms Canavan uses a light touch to bring important background information into The Ambassador’s Mission without over-powering the story.

The Ambassador’s Mission is set in a world where magical ability is innate but not ubiquitous, and where knowledge can be gained and lost. The crux of this story is at least two unallied, and potentially antagonistic, groups of magicians attempting to recover lost knowledge whilst working within the constraints of a very unstable political environment. Separately, there is a devious plot afoot involving drugs and rogue magicians. The scale and scope of the new trilogy is adequately underpinned. Naturally, this volume has ended on the veritable cliffhanger.

Ms Canavan has created a believable set of characters whose actions are dictated by their world rather than the needs of the story; characters in which I was interested. At the end of the book I wanted to know more, to see how the story unfolded, how fore-shadowed difficulties were going to be resolved, and how the developing romantic entanglements were going to progress. All I knew was that tears before bedtime was a given.

The Ambassador’s Mission is an enjoyable romp of a book, and an excellent diversion for a lazy afternoon or the commute between home and office.

-- Simon Litten

This is a carefully crafted sequel to the Black Magician series, set 20 years later.

Lorkin, the son of the Black Magicians Sonea and the late High Lord Akkarin, volunteers as an aid to Lord Dannyl who is now the Guild Ambassador to Sachaka, a land where High Lord Akkarin left some seriously dangerous and unfinished business. When Lorkin is kidnapped Sonea is frantic but constrained by her deal with the Guild in Kyralia. Her old friend Cery needs her help as well, as there is a subplot about a mysterious assassin who kills with magic…

As always this is a well rounded world with a lot more going on under the surface. Excellent classic fantasy with layers, even though it sometimes feels a trifle long. I get the feeling that the publishers were worried the readers would have forgotten all the twists of the politics and magic. Not so.

-- Maree Pavletich

The Ambassador's Mission is the first book in the second trilogy featuring Sonea, Cery and the Magician's Guild of Kyralia. It picks up 20 years after the events of the first series (the Black Magician trilogy); the novices are grown up with children of their own. Sonea, now one of two Black Magicians in the Guild, is dismayed when her son, Lorkin, is chosen as an assistant to the new Guild Ambassador to Sachaka, the realm where his father was enslaved, and where the attacks from the first trilogy came from. The Sachakan tradition of blood feuds means that Lorkin will be in danger, however Sonea is unable to protect him as her status as Black Magician means that she is still not trusted, and is unable to leave the city without condemning herself to exile. Cery has risen amongst the ranks of the Thieves, but this means that his life is also in danger from the Thief Hunter, an assassin who is hunting down and killing the powerful Thieves. To make matters worse, a new drug, roet, has entered the city, and its powerful and addictive effects are being felt amongst both the Thieves and through the Guild.

I approached The Ambassador's Mission with mixed feelings; I had eagerly devoured the Black Magician trilogy when it was first published, but had been bitterly disappointed by Canavan's second series, the Age of the Five, which had broadcast the 'twist' ending by the middle of the second book. Fortunately, The Ambassador's Mission is a worthy successor of the Black Magician trilogy. The first few chapters are a little bit cumbersome, given that Canavan has to explain what has happened in the twenty years between the ending of The High Lord and the start of this, and there are plenty of descriptions of characters going into rooms and recalling people or events from the first series. However, once it gets going, the narrative really grabs the reader and pulls you along with it. The different threads of the story are skilfully woven, with sections appearing in each chapter. The characters, both known to the reader and new, are well rounded and believable, and I am eager to get my hands on the next in the series.

One warning - this is not a book which can be picked up by the new reader. There are explanations of who the characters are, but the characteristics of the society are assumed known (with a glossary at the back to explain the new vocabulary), and, indeed, would bog the book down in far too much description if they were picked out in any sort of detail. So, if you have not read any Trudy Canavan as yet, go and find The Magicians' Guild, and start from the beginning of the saga.

-- Jo Foster

I found this a bit of a slog, and I have no idea why, unless it was the sheer length of the book. I discovered Trudi Canavan’s work at Aussiecon, where there was a box of her earlier books sitting on the free books stall – so I picked up the Black Magician trilogy, read it, and liked it. It’s magical fantasy, set in a world of humans in ideological conflict. The Kyralians and Sachakas have very different ideas about the use of magic, and the structure of society – it’s a good thing there’s many miles of wasteland between them.

The Ambassador’s Mission is set perhaps twenty years after the Black Magician trilogy and those who were children then are now all grown up, including Sonea’s son, Lorkin. More mysteries are surfacing in the histories of Kyralia, and Lorkin gets himself assigned as assistant to the new ambassador to Sachaka in hopes of finding new clues to the past in the libraries there. At the same time, things are hotting up in the mean streets of Imardin. Roet addiction is increasing, Thieves are dying, and a rogue magician is on the loose.

There are some similar plot elements here and in the previous trilogy, strange lost magic being a major, but there are sufficient differences to set them apart (this is not another Eddings). Trudi Canavan writes a fine sentence, and evokes her complex world in the eye of the reader with considerable skill. For all that it is the first novel of a trilogy, this novel has structure, with a definite beginning, middle and end. I definitely recommend the previous trilogy, and I’m certainly keen to see how this one turns out.

-- Jacqui Smith

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