Trudi Canavan is an Australian author best known for her Black Magician trilogy starring Sonea, a slum child hunted for using magic reserved for the higher classes. The Traitor Spy Trilogy is set 20 years later with Sonea as one of two Black Magicians in the Magicians Guild and is limited to Guild grounds and the Hospices that offer free healing throughout the city. The Magicians Guild has opened to all magic-users and tensions arise because of old prejudices between the classes. Meanwhile a drug that is so addictive that it can’t seem to be healed away even from Magicians whose bodies normally fight any kind of disease.
Without reading previous novels Canavan drops enough of the history that you won’t feel lost or confused at any point in the novel.
Assassins in the Night
Lorkin, Sonea’s son, has graduated and is unsure of what he wants to do with his talents. An opportunity comes up to travel as an assistant with Ambassador Dannyl to Sachaka, a land where those who are Magicians are only Black Magicians and the culture is strongly tied to slavery unlike his homeland. Lorkin wants to research the history of magic in order to find something that will help Kyralia, during which he wakes up to an assassination attempt and flees with the slave that saves him.
Murder Most Foul
Cery is a Thief from the previous novels who now has a wife, two sons and an estranged daughter. He attends a meeting with the new head of the Thieves Guild, a man he doesn’t know much about except that his name is Skellin, who asks him to find the notorious Thief Hunter who has been killing off Thieves. When he returns home he discovers his family has been murdered and he suspects it’s the Thief Hunter who may be a magician. He enlists the help of a former friend, Sonea, and together they try to find the Thief Hunter.
While I feel like the novel was solid, it felt a bit average. It was neither bad nor was it really good. The worldbuilding was strong and I’d like to see more of the world. I found the hunt for the Thief Hunter to be engaging and the mystery of it was the best part of the novel. Cery and his companions were the most interesting and fleshed out, on the other hand, Lorkin’s escape lacked suspense and his romance with his fellow escapee lacked substance. He seemed to fall in love with the woman for no real reason and she with him. It may have felt differently if I’d read the previous trilogy but I felt Sonea’s characterization was weak as if the author relied on the previous novels to supply most of her characterization. She always seemed to be reacting to the circumstances she was in rather than taking charge. Overall The Ambassador’s Mission was a fun, light read that felt like a set-up for later events in the story.
The book has a strong ending that brings some closure in the Thief Hunter being discovered, but also creates questions that make me interested in the sequel. The “end” of Lorkin’s storyline also had a strong resolution, but his future, both with the romantic interest and with The Traitors is unclear. It definitely creates more interest in the sequel and is one of the best parts of the book. I think the next book is going to be even better because it doesn’t suffer from being the first novel in the series with all of the set-up.
Why you should read this book?
If you’re looking for a traditional light fantasy I think you’ll enjoy The Ambassador’s Mission. Beginner fantasy readers or readers who’ve read The Black Magician trilogy will also enjoy the book. If you’re looking for something different or deep though, I think you’ll be a bit bored.