On it’s face, Trial of Sorcerers is basically just about what happens when you send the various elemental benders from Avatar: The Last Airbender through the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
Which is fun! But actually a vehicle for a VERY different story.
Because inside of the framing plot device, Trial of Sorcerers is fundamentally a story about trust.
Our core is this:
Years ago, a disastrous Carrie-style incident caused our heroine to lose control of her magic and kill someone.
It was an accident. It was still manslaughter. It seemed like the lesson everybody thought she was supposed to take away was this: 1) you can’t trust other people, because they are capable of harm, and 2) you can’t trust yourself, because so are you.
Except then she grows up. And the PROBLEM with that conclusion of life becomes obvious: People contain multitudes. Nothing is ever that simple.
The family who protected you is able to both reveal the truth and keep you from it. So are you.
The peers who harassed you are also capable of change and of regret. So are you.
The imaginary dream of your youth is real and touchable, and also wildly brutal up close. So are you.
The calculating rival is also scared, and complicated, and kind. So are you.
The home you’ve known your whole life is full of pieces you’ve never seen before. So are you.
No one is merely the worst thing they’ve ever done – but they are also never going to be a person who DIDN’T do that.
Except the PROBLEM with figuring out that everyone is more then they appear is equally obvious: If everyone has the capacity to be better than you thought they were, they have just as much capacity to be worse.
So do you.
And so – with ice powers and magic echoes and shields made of light and whispered secrets of a wizard pirate queen – Trial of Sorcerers digs into what it means to trust ANYONE, including yourself.
Whether you can. Whether you could ever help yourself from doing so. Whether it’s even worth it after you’ve already been burned – more than once. And whether it is, despite everything, still better than the alternative.
That being said? This book should have cut the first 40-60 pages. I almost gave up entirely before the plot even really got going – and that would have been a fucking SHAME because the rest of this book is so goddamned GOOD.
Also: bonus points for doing a love triangle well. Our heroine’s attraction to multiple other characters isn’t a throw-away portion of this story – it’s PART of the exploration of trust in both other people and herself. A thematically significant love triangle! So hard to get right, and yet SO INTERESTING when it is!