SPOILER WARNING! Possible spoilers for the previous book, The Magicians' Guild. Read at your own risk.
"Sonea knew the other novices in the Magicians' Guild all came from noble families and that, as a former slum-dweller, she could expect to be treated as an outsider, but she little realised the level of animosity she would face from her fellow students. The sons and daughters of the most powerful families in the realm, her classmates seem determined to see her fail - even if they have to engineer her failure themselves. Dannyl and Rothen offer Sonea what help they can, but when someone starts spreading malicious rumours about her, Akkarin, The High Lord, steps in to put a stop to it. But Sonea may soon wish she was still enduring the taunts of her peers, for in accepting the protection of the guild's high lord she may have embraced a far bleaker fate. It seems that Akkarin harbours a secret that is far darker than his magician's robes. Taken into his confidence, Sonea must keep the truth hidden. But by doing so, is she showing loyalty to the head of her guild, or making the worst mistake of her life?"
The Novice is the second book in the Black Magician trilogy. It's a little slower than the first book, with more talk than action to start, but it's still a great read. Like the first book, it's written in third person but from the perspective of several people. Sonea is struggling with her knowledge of the High Lord's activities, her studies and the other novices determination to get rid of her. Dannyl is working well away from the Guild, as an Ambassador and researching ancient magics for several people, while trying to avoid issues from his past. Lorlen is trying to cope with the knowledge he gained from Sonea and what it means for his friendship with the High Lord, but he's also busy trying to get to the bottom of ritual murders taking place in the city which seem to have roots in black magic. Rothen, Sonea's guardian, is also trying to accept what Sonea knows, whilst teaching her what he can and keeping her safe. But before long things go very wrong for everyone in one way or another and they find themselves wondering just what the truth is and how to deal with it.
While it may be slower than the first book, I didn't enjoy it any less. It's written in such a way that my interest was held and continued to grow as the book wore on. There are some good twists and turns through the book and you really feel for most of the characters, Sonea in particular, as they face their various trials. I like how the story is told from the different perspectives, without really missing anything or switching too often. All the characters who get page time for their perspectives, get it for a reason and it gives a great 3D view of life at the Guild, and away from it, and how it all works for different people.
We get to know all the characters better through the book and meet some interesting new ones too who add to it well. Sonea's character grows and develops the most through the book and it's an interesting journey to be on as she faces the hatred of the other novices (and some teachers), the threat from the High Lord, her training and meeting someone who has the potential to be more than just a friend. I really felt for Rothen as well with the situation he was stuck in, with no one to turn to. And I couldn't help but be more and more curious at High Lord Akkarin's actions and motives. A great follow up to The Magicians' Guild!