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Trudi Canavan is one of my favourite authors, so I had high expectations when approaching this, the final installment in her thrilling 'Traitor Spy Trilogy'. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Firstly, do not bother reading this unless you have read the first two books: 'The Ambassador's Mission', and 'The Rogue'. The plot follows on directly from them, and will make little sense without this background information. For those already familiar with the series, however, it is well worth reading. It follows all the characters we have already been introduced too, in a complex plot, with many substrands. In the Magician's Guild in Kyralia, the thief lord Ceri is hiding from the rogue magician who has taken over the thief networks. He is accompanied by his daughter and bodyguard, and aided by the novice Lilia. But it is not just his life and business at stake, for the rogue magician has decided he wants to learn the forbidden Black Magic. Unfortunately, Lilia, is one of the few approved to be trained in it, making her a prime target.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring country of Sachaka, the Kyralian ambassadors face a challenge. Lorkin, recently returned from the rebel 'Traitor' group, is imprisoned by the king, seeking information about the possible threat within his land. However, Lorkin, has gained valuable magical information from them, that he must safeguard and return to the Guild at all costs. Dannyl, on the other hand, has challenges of his own; he has fallen in love with one of the most important Sachakan advisers, but must tread carefully. The whole situation is complicated by the arrival of Sonea from the Magician's Guild, Lorkin's mother, but also a Black Magician. Then hanging over them all, the possibility of a Traitor rebellion against Sachakan rule.
This novel has all the hallmarks I have come to expect from Trudi Canavan; a unique and original fantasy world, and characters you really care about. One of the most interesting features is the magic system. The standard way of performing magic is not particularly different to anything seen before, the idea of harnessing some inner power, but the discoveries made about magic throughout the book are new and unusual. This is not a static magic system, but one that is still being worked out. The magic doesn't overwhelm however, and this is a fantasy in which the focus is firmly on the people. One of the things I really like about Canavan's work is how she meshes large and small scale; hence Sonea's maternal concern for her son is juxtaposed with the much larger problem of international relations between Kyralia and Sonea. I had some issues with how realistic the final battle between the Traitors and the Sachakans was, and also with Sonea's sudden new relationship, but other than that, this is one of the most realistic fantasies around. As ever with Canavan, don't expect a bittersweet ending; but nevertheless it is a poweful one, and a fitting conclusion to this series.