What I liked about the worlds that Canavan creates is that they always seem to me to be self-consistent and the worlds (plural) we see in this book are no exception. Interestingly when I read the Black Magician books what struck me most was that the descriptions were so ‘Australian’ in tone – I was then hugely chuffed to discover that Ms Canavan is, indeed, from Melbourne. In this book there are many different setting which cover most terrains, jungle, mountains, cities and bars so maybe she has been travelling. For ‘research purposes’, naturally…..
The variety is, for me, one of the best parts of this book. In one world a young student (of both magic and archaeology) finds an enchanted book which has been made from both the body and mind of a young woman. He does hand it over to the authorities but, realising that they wouldn’t use its powers for good purposes, he steals it and runs away (in a fabulously steampunky magic-fuelled airship). In another world a young woman has magical powers which she must keep secret since her society does not allow the free use of magic. Or indeed magic use of any kind by women. In fact the society she lives in seems to severely restrict women – luckily she is a pretty feisty girl and, initially, finds love with an impoverished but talented artist. Things then go downhill fairly rapidly for her – she is discovered, arrested and sent to a distant prison where she fears she will experience the very worst of treatments.
The book swings between the two stories and both of the lead characters seem well-developed (although I have a preference for Rielle, the girl fighting against an oppressive society). The plot is gripping and rattles along at a good pace. The only real problem is that, as this book ends, our two lead characters are left in perilous situations and I will have to wait ages for the next installment. Luckily we have had hints of how the story will progress – what the source is of magical energy, a diminishing resource in student Tyen’s world and Vella (the enchanted book) is showing Tyen how he can travel between worlds. I fully expect Tyen and Rielle to be meeting up before the series ends and look forward to reading what happens when they do.