In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, discovers a sentient book in an ancient tomb. Vella was once a young sorcerer-maker, until she was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been gathering information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.Series: Millennium's Rule #1
Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests since a terrible war depleted all but a little magic, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows from her ability to sense the stain it leaves behind that she has a talent for it, and that there are people willing to teach her how to use it, should she ever need to risks the Angels’ wrath.
Further away, a people called the Travelers live their entire lives on the move, trading goods from one world to another. They know that each world has its own store of magic, reducing or increasing a sorcerer’s abilities, so that if one entered a weak world they may be unable to leave it again. Each family maintains a safe trading route passed down through countless generations and modified whenever local strife makes visiting dangerous. But this is not the only knowledge the Travelers store within their stories and songs, collected over millennia spent roaming the universe. They know a great change is due, and that change brings both loss and opportunity.
Published by Orbit on 2014-05-13
Genres: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.
I’d been itching for a good fantasy novel lately, so when Thief’s Magic popped up on NetGalley, I thought I’d give it a try. I ended up enjoying it a lot, but the structure of the book itself is a bit on the nonstandard side, and I spent most of the book wondering how on earth everything was going to come together.
Thief’s Magic is actually two different stories put into one novel. The book alternates between Tyen, a sorcerer/history student in a world where machines are driven by magic, and Rielle, a merchant’s daughter in a world where magic is forbidden. To be honest, I spent most of the book wondering how on earth these two stories would come together; the two characters are worlds apart, and up until the last quarter of the book, I really wasn’t sure how they could mesh together.
But lest that sound like a criticism, it’s really not. I enjoyed both separate stories very, very much, and by the end, I started to see how the two different threads would eventually come together. Canavan’s worldbuilding is spectacular, for both worlds. The theme of magical repression and particularly sexism with regard to magic carries across both stories; Tyen is a sorcerer, but unless he’s on a tomb raiding expedition or in the imperial Academy at which he’s a student, he’s not allowed to use magic. It needs to be conserved to run the great machines of the empire’s cities. In Rielle’s homeland, on the other hand, magic belongs to the Angels, and for someone who isn’t a priest (read: a man) to use it is to defile themselves. Rielle has always been able to see Stain, the absence of magic (I’ll explain this in a second), and has always kept that ability a secret for fear of reprisals.
The magic system in this book is really intriguing. Through Tyen we learn how sorcerers actually use magic, drawing it to themselves and either creating movement or stillness. This can be used to heat or cool things, to create solid barriers, and even to fight if the sorcerer is powerful enough. Soot, or Stain as it’s known in Rielle’s world, is basically the empty space where recently used magic used to be. In both worlds, women are repressed when it comes to magic use (and, to be frank, in the rest of their presence in society). In Rielle’s world, if anyone other than a priest uses magic, they believe they are destining themselves to have their souls ripped apart by the angels. Priests are allowed to use magic, but have to perform purification rituals afterward. Women aren’t allowed to become priests, so women like Rielle have no options when it comes to their natural magical talent. In the empire where Tyen lives, women aren’t allowed to study magic. When he meets two magically adept women, he’s forced to rethink not only the way that magic works but also how his society works.
It’s a little difficult to write a review without spoiling surprises in the story, which is why I’m mostly focusing on the worldbuilding and the magic system. Both of those are amazing, and so are the two separate storylines. They are very different in plot, but both are engrossing, and Canavan knows exactly when to end one character’s part and jump to the other’s storyline that leaves you salivating for more. Some readers might find that frustrating, but I loved it. It kept me glued to the page. Thanks to the cliffhanger ending, I now can’t wait for the second book in the series to be published. Unfortunately… I have to wait until next year. [sob]