The Magicians' Guild

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The Magicians' Guild
First edition cover
First edition cover
Author Trudi Canavan
Cover artist Steve Stone
Country Australia
Language English
Series The Black Magician series
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Orbit Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 469 pp (UK edition)
ISBN ISBN 1-84149-313-9 (first edition, paperback) &
ISBN 1-904233-66-X (hardback edition)
OCLC 53391710
Followed by The Novice

The Magicians' Guild is the first fantasy novel in The Black Magician series by Trudi Canavan. Published in 2001, it is followed by The Novice (2002) and The High Lord (2003). The book tells the story of Sonea, a young "dwell" from the slums, as she discovers her magical potential. When she hurls a stone through a magical barrier, accidentally injuring a magician behind it, Sonea finds herself on the run from the powerful Magicians' Guild. The magicians must find her before her uncontrolled and untrained powers kill her and destroy the city, as well as overcome Sonea's distrust and fear of the magicians and their Guild as they try to convince her to join their ranks.

Plot summary[edit]

Each winter in Imardin, the capital city of Kyralia, the streets are purged of the "dwells", the city's poor under-class, by magicians who drive away the inhabitants of the city's slums. Although young gang members gather to throw rocks at them, the magicians are protected by a magical shield—until Sonea, a young dwell, hurls a rock through their barrier and injures the magician Lord Fergun.

Fearing a rogue magician, the Guild begins searching for Sonea. Benign Lords Dannyl and Rothen lead the search into the slums, worried that Sonea's increasingly uncontrolled magic will harm her and those around her. But Sonea both distrusts the Guild for their apparent lack of compassion for the poor dwells and fears their reprisal for her accidental injury of Lord Fergun. She flees with her friend Cery, eventually seeking the aid of the shady Thieves, who see the value of having their own magician and take her under their care. With Cery, she sneaks into the Magician's Guild in an attempt to gain knowledge of how to control her magic, and observes a black-robed magician covered in blood performing a strange rite on a servant. However, her attempt is unsuccessful, and Sonea continues to lose control of her powers, setting fire to her surroundings repeatedly, before Lord Rothen at last locates her.

Lord Rothen and the sinister Fergun fight for her mentorship, though Sonea herself is uninterested in training and only wants to return home to her friends and family. Lord Fergun attempts to sway Sonea to betray the Guild and thus "prove" that dwells are not fit to enter the Guild and goes so far as to kidnap and threaten Sonea's friend, Cery, but Fergun's plans are discovered and he will have to stand trial. In order to prove Fergun's guilt, Sonea submits to a mental examination, or 'truthreading' by Administrator Lorlen, who, finding the memory of the black-robed magician, reveal it to be Lord Akkarin, head of the guild, practising black magic – which is forbidden in Kyralia. Sonea decides then to join the Guild and train her magical potential.

Main characters[edit]

  • Sonea – A "dwell" (someone who lives in the slums) with the undiscovered potential to become an extremely powerful magician.
  • Lord Rothen – An alchemist and teacher, and Sonea's mentor.
  • Lord Dannyl – An alchemist and former pupil of Lord Rothen, who is willing to use unorthodox methods to find Sonea and who has her best interests at heart.
  • Lord Fergun – A warrior magician who disapproves of dwells being taught magic. Also, from House Maron which earns him the support of a couple of magicians.
  • Administrator Lorlen – Administrator for the Guild.
  • High Lord Akkarin – Leader of the Guild, and secretly a black magician.
  • Cery – Friend of Sonea's whose full name, Ceryni, is that of a type of small rodent. His father was once a Thief, and Cery uses his connection to the Thieves to help hide Sonea from the magicians.

Minor characters[edit]

  • University Director Jerrik

Heads of disciplines[edit]

“Most discussion in the Guild Meets was dominated by the three Heads of Disciplines ...” (p. 30 The Magician’s Guild)

  • Lord Balkan – Head of Warriors. He is “robust” and “observant”, examining all sides of an issue, but tending to be quite calm with respect to complex and hurried situations.
  • Lady Vinara – Head of Healers. Described as “practical” and “stern”, yet can be “surprisingly compassionate” under the right circumstances.
  • Lord Sarrin – Head of Alchemists. Said to be harsh in his judgement, but always acknowledges other's views as valid. Described as an old man with white hair, an angular face and a large nose.

Other magicians[edit]

  • Lord Elben – teacher of Alchemy, of the “powerful” House of Maron.
  • Lord Kerrin – wanted Sonea punished for harming “his friend” Lord Fergun, from House Maron.
  • Lord Osen – the Administrator's assistant.
  • Lord Solend – an old historian (magician) who explains to the magicians of the natural development of magical ability
  • Lord Yaldin – an elderly magician, friend of Rothen. Has a wife called Ezrille.

Non magicians[edit]

  • Ezrille – Lord Yaldin’s wife
  • Tania – Rothen’s servant
  • Takan – Akkarin’s servant


  • Torrin – Cery’s father (dead throughout the book, so only talked of)
  • Ravi – the thief Cery runs across when he attempts to use the Thieves’ Road, who allows Cery to use the road if he needs in exchange for services
  • Gorin – a bulky, muscly thief whom Dannyl meets with to make a deal in an attempt to find Sonea
  • Faren – a Lonmar (member of the desert race north west of Kyralia, rare in Imardin), which is strange to Sonea as thievery is evil to Lonmar people; helps Sonea due to Cery’s contacts. Turns Sonea over to the Guild in the end due to the other Thieves becoming worried about her uncontrolled powers.


  • Harrin – the “undisputed leader” of a gang of youths Sonea used to belong to, who are responsible for causing “mischief” during the Purge, tall and bulky since Sonea saw him last (prior to The Magician’s Guild). Carries Sonea to Donia’s father’s bolhouse after the incident of the Purge; protects and defends Sonea while she’s being sought by the Magician’s, proving his loyalty and fairness.
  • Burril – a boy in Harrin’s gang who argues with him about whether or not they can trust Sonea, and who attempts to take Sonea to the magicians
  • Evin – another youth who attempts to take Sonea for the reward
  • Donia – a girl whom Harrin and his gang would bribe to get bol for them, and in whose father’s bolhouse the gang takes Sonea after the Purge. She and Harrin have also been in a relationship for a year, at the beginning of The Magician’s Guild – though whether this is for love or because Harrin simply wants Gellin’s inn is unspecified. She also takes care of Sonea, attempting to change her appearance (without much success).
  • Gellin – Donia’s father, described as a “large man”, who is quite good-natured about the fact that Sonea and the others used to steal bol from him
  • Jonna and Ranel – Sonea’s aunt and uncle, respectively, who look after Sonea. Jonna does not approve of Harrin’s gang. The three had been staying in a ‘stayhouse’, until the king started evicting people from stayhouses, apparently because he didn’t want so many people in one building.


In the book, magicians wear different coloured robes according to their chosen discipline. The colours are:

  • Red, for warriors
  • Green, for healers
  • Purple, for alchemists
  • Brown, for novices who have not yet chosen a discipline

There are also colours denoting rank:

  • Black sashes, for Heads of Discipline.
  • Blue robes, for the administrators
  • Black robes, for the High Lord
  • Gold sashes, for the King's advisors.

Writing the book[edit]

On her webpage, Canavan describes that the main inspiration for the first chapter came from a watching a documentary of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona:

I was watching late night news and saw a report on how the city authorities had sent trucks around the city, into which all the homeless were loaded and then taken them to other cities. That night I dreamed that I was one among hundreds of people being driven out of a city... by magicians. We started throwing stones and instead I threw magic. I woke up and wrote down the dream, sure that in the morning I'd read it and laugh (most dreams make for bad stories). But I didn't. Later it fit with a world I'd created where magic was latent and required expert tuition, so the teaching of it became a priviledge [sic] only available to the rich.

—Trudi Canavan, author's website


Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Aurealis Award Nomination: Shortlist for Best Fantasy Novel of 2002[1]

Release details[edit]


Sources, references, external links, quotations[edit]