The Age of the Five Trilogy is second created by Trudi Canavan (The Black Magician trilogy being the first) and although it explores similar themes, it tackles to a small extent religion within the fantasy genre.
Canavan seems to be drawn to strong female lead characters that possess huge potential for greatness. In this case, the primary character you are introduced to is a High Priestess call Auraya who is elected to become an immortal religious leader to compliment the existing four others. The White, as they are known rule through diplomacy and guidance, forming treaties where possible to promote the teachings of their five gods (Huan, Chaia, Lore, Yranna and Saru). Through the course of the three books, you read as Auraya gets to know the other White, learns to be one herself then grows beyond her existence as a mere servant of the gods.
Canavan has always been able to pace her books well, she manages to write chase scenes that you actually find yourself reading quickly and can convey the calm and serenity that would surround an immortal leader with an ease that I’m sure doesn’t come easily. She manages to convey that being immune to the ravages of time and serving beings of pure magic, the White are more patient than any mortal would comprehend. To Juran for example (the eldest of the White characters), the collapse of talks with another nation are almost shrugged off as a first attempt. Its a pretty powerful idea, an exploration of the premise that although national leaders change, the belief systems of the populace and the overlords of those nations do not.
The White do however have enemies. Throughout the trilogy the protagonists remain the same.
- Dreamweavers – followers of a cult of sorcery used for healing purposes.
- The Wilds – Immortals in their own right, they speak out against the Gods, their servants and the core beliefs of the faith.
- The Pentadrians – followers of the other five Gods written about in the trilogy.
- The Voices – The Pentadrian leaders, also five in number and equal in magical power to the White.
Through invasions, attempted assassinations, subterfuge and just plain conversation, you learn the histories and motives of these protagonists. Once again Canavan handles the characters very well to ensure you don’t dismiss any as the cookie cutter bad guy type.
In my opinion, these books are slightly better written than the Black Magician Trilogy and show that Canavan has obviously moved forward as a writer. Few can forgive the painfully clunky treatment she gave one of her characters in those books, outing him as gay then treating him to every stereotype imaginable. She also seems to have progressed her storytelling to push to the end as well. The Age of the Five hints at another few stories still to tell and she leaves you satisfied this story is ended but another is sure to follow.
In short, a reasonably good read if you can stick with it through some slightly slower sections.
More info can be found here but watch for the spoilers!