I found this second book in the Black Magician Trilogy to be much more compelling than the first. I had a hard time putting The Novice down. We see some character development here for Sonea and Dannyl and are left to continue wondering what exactly is going on with the High Lord, although by the end of the book there are some clues. He isn't a very well developed character at this point at all, and as the third book is titled The High Lord I am pretty sure we will get a lot more of him there.
I have to say that the two separate themes of bullying and sexual identity almost completely took over the whole book and overshadowed the plot, but despite that this book still kept me reading and wanting to know what would happen next.
The bullying that Sonea faced was so excessive, and don't get me started on the fact that no one was ever really punished by those in authority for the bullying. I mean what the heck? Regin was like an annoying gnat that you couldn't kill or a bad dream that wouldn't end, and there was no real reason given for the lengths he went to to torment her other than he hated her because she was from the slums. He was not developed beyond that. If he had been I think it would have done a lot more to enhance the story.
I did really like the addition of Rothen's son Dorrian, he had a nice easy banter with Sonea and reading their scenes together was one of the nicest parts of the book. It brought some relief from the bullying but we do not get nearly enough of him.
As far as Dannyl goes, I didn't find his journey all that interesting and it did nothing to really help the plot along, except for maybe showing us more of the world. It felt like it was mostly there so that he could finally confront his past and his sexuality. I would have liked if his character had had more impact on the main plot line, which is what it seemed would happen in the beginning.
So overall a really enjoyable read with a couple of things that could have been improved upon. I'm looking forward to reading the last book in the trilogy.
I do need to include another cover rant here. What is that black Pegasus creature doing on the cover? It doesn't appear in the book at all. The rest of the cover is ok. It looks like the scene in the arena with Sonea and Regin and they look the right age.