The High Lord is the third book in The Black Magician series by Trudi Canavan. Published in 2003, it is the sequel to The Novice and The Magicians' Guild and concludes the story of Sonea, a former slum-girl discovered to possess magical potential. Having earned the respect of her fellow students and her teachers, Sonea must face the terrible secret of the High Lord's use of forbidden Black Magic.
A year has passed since Sonea had challenged Regin to a public duel and she beat Regin by one bout. Since that victory, she has finally won the respect she deserves, not only as a novice with exceptional power, but also the High Lord's favourite. But even with this new respect, she still has one challenge left to face: Akkarin. Still unable to shake off the memory she has after the duel, she continues to avoid Akkarin.
Ceryni, Sonea's old friend, now has a powerful position with the Thieves. He has a task which he must perform which could cost him his life. But that task is not a secret. A strange woman, called Savara, with great skill knows of this task and wishes to help Cery, however he will not accept her aid as he does not trust her.
Akkarin surprises Sonea by showing her a book, which is an autobiography of Corin, a famous architect. This book reveals that Corin himself had discovered and no doubt used black magic. Sonea is amazed at this knowledge but is suspicious why he has shown this information to her. Akkarin is pleased that Sonea has read the book and gives her another one which is nearly 500 years old. From reading it, Sonea discovers that many centuries ago black magic was referred to as 'higher magic.' The book tells of a novice who desired power and used the higher magic to obtain more power by killing many magicians and absorbing their power. The Guild, in the end, suffered greatly from confronting the novice. They decided to store the knowledge of higher magic and rename it black magic. They sealed the knowledge, hoping that no one would take advantage of that power, but only use it in the greatest need and the knowledge was hidden in a secret passage of the University. The author also tells of a threat from Sachaka, that the Sachakans will have vengeance for losing an ancient war. Only the Head of Warriors knew of this secret weapon, however the knowledge was later lost.
As Sonea starts to absorb this new information, Akkarin takes her into the city in disguise. Sonea realises that the Thieves are in on a secret with Akkarin as they use their 'private road.' Sonea and Akkarin come to a room face to face with a captured Sachakan slave who was sent to see how weak the Guild was. Akkarin starts to search the man, and finds a gold tooth with a red gem inside it; the gem is a blood gem, used by their masters to see and hear what the holder sees, hears and does. Akkarin then tells Sonea that he will teach her to read a mind of an unwilling person. Struggling at first, Sonea discovers the name of the Sachakan. She also discovers that Akkarin was a slave. Amazed and shocked, Sonea starts seeing memories of a group called the Ichani, powerful magicians that have been labelled as outcasts by the Sachakan King. Sonea is then taken outside while Akkarin stays inside and kills the man using black magic.
Back at the Guild, Sonea starts to question everything she knows and has been told. She misses a class, instead finding solitude at a stream in the forest, a secret place that Dorrien had shown her. To her surprise, she is met by Akkarin as it was also where Akkarin and Lorlen used to go when they were young. Akkarin begins telling Sonea about his past, about how he entered Sachaka and was captured by an Ichani named Dakova who easily overpowered Akkarin. Whilst in servitude, Akkarin and his fellow slaves, all latent magicians, constantly had their power absorbed by Dakova. For five years, Akkarin was a magical source of energy for Dakova, but everything changed when Dakova was attacked by a fellow Ichani. Though Dakova won, he was left weak. He borrowed slaves from his brother Kariko. After some time Dakova found a previous enemy of his and decides to kill him. Upon arriving at an abandoned mine, the floor gives way and Akkarin falls down, only to be saved by another Ichani. The Ichani made a deal with Akkarin to spare his life if he killed Dakova, Akkarin agrees and is taught black magic by the Ichani.
Akkarin headed back with wine laced with a sleeping drug. While Dakova drank the wine, Akkarin then killed the slaves, but when he came to Takan he could not take his dormant power because they had helped each other at times of need. When he came to Dakova, he took his power as quickly as possible, killing him in the process. With the deed done and now free, Akkarin then started his long journey home without food thinking he would die on the journey back to the guild but Takan followed him with a supply of food and drink and became Akkarin's servant. Sonea wondered why he had told her and asks him, his only answer is that someone else needs to know. As the gong strikes Akkarin ends the tale and tells Sonea to get back to her classes.
Meanwhile Lord Dannyl has been instructed to infiltrate a group of Elyne nobles, lead by a powerful Dem, attempting to illicitly learn magic. Having now managed to enter the Dem's circle of trust he begins teaching Farand, a young man whose powers have been unleashed but who has not learnt Control. Slowly, Dannyl gains more trust from the Dem. When Dannyl enters Farand's mind , he realises the Elyne King used Farand for eavesdropping. Farand had overheard the King order a political assassination, because of this Farand was prevented from joining the Guild by the King.
Back at the Guild, Sonea is unable to sleep. She is continuously replaying what Akkarin had told her, and wondering why he told her. She even starts to believe that black magic isn't necessarily evil, only the wielder of the magic can determine that. She starts to wonder what would happen if Akkarin was to die and no one would be able to carry on the secret struggle with the Sachakan spies. She decides to tell Akkarin that she wants to learn black magic. The next day when Sonea tells Akkarin that she wants to learn, he refuses, he starts to change her mind saying that if she is caught, she will be executed. However her mind is made up, Akkarin refuses but says that he has another use for Sonea. He informs her that, if she was willing, she can be a source of power for him. He says he will only teach her black magic if the Ichani invade Kyralia. Even though she isn't helping in the way she thought she would, she is still pleased to assist Akkarin.
Lord Dannyl visits Farand once more to assure everyone that he has learnt Control. When in Farands mind, Dannyl starts questioning him. Before Dannyl can get any answers, Farand is aware of what Dannyl is doing and breaks the connection. Revealing him as a traitor, Farand tells everyone that more magicians are on their way, but don't know Dannyl's location. However Dannyl informs the group of rebels that that won't be the case. Farand perceives Dannyl's and the other magician's conversation and agrees with him. The other nobles are apprehended, Farand and the Dem surrender.
At night, Sonea is worried about Akkarin, since he is not back for hunting the latest spy. Once he returns, Sonea realises that the fight must have been terrible, and that Akkarin lost. She and Takan follow him to his bedroom and Akkarin starts filling in the details about the new spy. Akkarin believes that this new spy is another slave, but Takan tells Akkarin that she must be an Ichani, as she is cunning and strong. Takan once again tells Akkarin to teach Sonea black magic for help in case he dies, Akkarin finally agrees that he will teach Sonea tomorrow night.
Cery is surprised that Akkarin lost to the latest spy, and vows to find her again. Savara enters Cery's room saying that if Cery had trusted her, she could have dealt with the new spy, unlike Akkarin. Savara then continues, saying that she knows the spy and wishes revenge for a past act. However she realises that now that Akkarin knows about the new spy, she cannot intervene without revealing herself, something she does not wish to do. Cery promises that she can hunt the next spy.
The next day, while Lorlen and Lord Sarrin discuss building plans, Lord Osen informs them that there has been a massacre last night, a magician and his family have been murdered. All the victims had shallow cuts, which weren't fatal wounds. Osen also reports that there was a major battle between some unknown magicians. Lorlen decides that someone should go to the location of the fight and see if it had been magical.
At night, Sonea makes her way to the underground passage to start her training in black magic. Akkarin informs Sonea that all living things have a natural barrier. With black magic, the idea is to break the barrier and draw their magical power from them. Sonea, under Akkarin's instructions, starts to learn how to take power, with Takan as her source. Once she is done, she heals him and is given some more books on black magic to read.
While heading back to Immardin, Dannyl and Farand start talking about the future, and what consequences he and the other rebels would have to face. Realising that he is tired, Dannyl tells Farand to get some sleep, as he starts to leave Dannyl notices that Farand's lips are blue and comes to the conclusion that he has been poisoned. Dannyl then calls on Lady Vinara using telepathy, she informs him of how to purge the poison. Dannyl barricade the door to prevent anyone stopping him from healing Farand.
Akkarin takes Sonea to show her how to defeat the spies, the Thieves inform them of where she is but when they reach her rooms she is not there. They look around, hearing footsteps Sonea hides in an alcove. The spy enters and talks to Akkarin before they start attacking one another. The spy moves closer to the alcove and Sonea tries to stay hidden, the combat is causing damage to be building and Sonea is forced to use her shield. She finds a ring in the alcove, one worn by an elder of a noble house.
A heavy blow is struck and the alcove collapses, however Sonea creates a hollow with her shield, she then realises the spy is not a slave but a powerful Ichani. A hole is formed as the hollow begins to collapse, Sonea then sees that the Ichani is moving backwards and will soon detect her. Sonea drops her shield and the Ichani's passes over her undetected, she then slashes the Ichani's neck with a piece of wood and drains her power, killing the woman. Akkarin and Sonea then return to the Guild.
The Magicians Guild have learned that Akkarin and Sonea are using black magic and believe they may be responsible for the murders. They are tried and convicted of using forbidden magic, but not of the murders. Akkarin is sentenced to exile in Sachaka, Sonea is allowed to remain but refuses saying that, if alone, Akkarin will be killed. Unsure about Akkarin's explanation of an imminent Ichani invasion they are both exiled.
Akkarin and Sonea are forced to hide in the wastes of Sachaka where they are pursued by a pair of Ichani but manage to elude them. Meanwhile the Ichani invade Kyralia, easily overcoming the (reinforced) border defenses and slaughtering over twenty Guild magicians. They then advance on the capital Imardin, but are slowed by an ambush. It seems that only Akkarin and Sonea will be able to hold back the Ichani invasion as the Guild magicians are no match for them.
Whilst in Sachaka, Sonea develops feelings for Akkarin, but tries to hide them. However Sonea awakes Akkarin from a nightmare and accidentally senses his feelings for her. Akkarin is hesitant because he argues he is 13 years older than Sonea, but Sonea doesn't seem to care. They kiss, and later sleep together.
The two then return to the borders of Kyralia where they encounter Dorrien, who isn't too happy to see them there, he escorts them back to the border but they are ambushed by one of the Ichani, who is eventually killed by Sonea. The three return to Dorrien's small home and discuss possible plans, they seem to decide one. Whereby Sonea and Akkarin will secretly return to Imardin, their city.
Akkarin and Sonea return to Imardin and enlist the aid of the Thieves, including Cery, Sonea's old friend and slum dwellers in fighting the Ichani who now roam the city searching for victims to strengthen them. Sonea and Akkarin search the slum dwells for any magical potential and take it to strengthen their power, however, unlike the Ichani, they do not kill their helpers. The night before, Cery gives Akkarin and Sonea some changes of clothes, including full length, black, magician robes.
Sonea and Akkarin are able to pick off many of the Ichani one by one, while another is killed with the help of Regin, Sonea's old Novice enemy. One Ichani is then killed by the Thieves and another by the Guild. Eventually only three Ichani remain. But Lorlen is badly wounded, and tells Akkarin to absorb his remaining powers, Akkarin refuses but is persuaded to by Lorlen he must. Akkarin agrees sadly, takes his powers and Lorlen dies.
Unfortunately, the three Ichani left have been absorbing the magic from various magically constructed buildings, and increasing in strength. Before the remaining Ichani can absorb the magic held in the Guild buildings (including the Arena, which has masses of power around it), Akkarin and Sonea force the three into a final battle at the Guild. A climactic battle ensues and the Ichani begin to tire. However, the lead Ichani, Kariko, lays a trap and a knife springs out of the ground and stabs Akkarin through the chest.
As Akkarin is unable to fight, he persuades Sonea to make use of and channel his energy to supplement her dwindling reserves and with that combination of force, Sonea manages to destroy the last three Ichani. However, in doing so, all of Akkarins life force is absorbed by Sonea, and he dies. 'He had given her too much power. He had given her everything.' Sonea grieves for him and becomes extremely depressed.
Whilst Dannyl and Tayend, his assistant and lover, return to Elyne, the Higher Magicians debate about who to appoint to various positions in the Guild and appoint Rothen as the Head of Alchemic Studies. Lord Osen will probably replace the late Lord Lorlen. Lord Balkan is expected to replace Akkarin.
The Higher Magicians come to the conclusion that Sonea shall be appointed to the position of Black Magician, but will not be allowed to leave the guild premises. However, arguing against that restriction, Rothen explains to them that she joined the guild in order to help the poor, and they reconsider. They rule that if she is to venture out beyond the guild premisis, she must be accompanied by an escort, and she must not venture beyond the city slums in which she seeks to aid the poor. In a matter of months the Guild builds a hospital for the slums and assign Dorrien and Lady Vinara to train Sonea as a healer. She is also to wear black robes from now on, and the High Lord shall not anymore wear black, but White.
Sonea spots her Aunt in the queue at the slum hospital with a baby in her arms and tells Rothen to call her over in the office. Her Aunt tells her what the problem is and Sonea gives her the prescriptions for the baby's fever.
Sonea then hesitantly tries to explain to her Aunt that she would like her to come live in the guild with Sonea because she is in need of her help. At first, Sonea's aunt is confused, as is Rothen, but when Sonea taps her belly, Sonea's Aunt understands and they make explanations to Rothen. Sonea is fearful; she is carrying Akkarin's baby and didn't plan for it to happen. Sonea's Aunt smiles and soothingly assures her that she will indeed look after her, at least for a while, to help guide and prepare her for what is to come.
Trudi Canavan has committed to writing a sequel trilogy, the Traitor Spy Trilogy, to be published starting in 2008.
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