“When Auraya was chosen to become a priestess, she could never have believed that a mere ten years later she would be one of the White, the gods’ most powerful servants.”
Priestess of the White follows Auraya as she ascends to the position of one of the Five, one of the most powerful of the Circlians. Auraya as a character was neutral; she didn’t do anything bad however she didn’t do anything that, as a reader, you would admire her for.
Canavan’s world was built up similarly to the world she created for the Black Magicians Trilogy. An evil country decides to attack the innocent country for no other reason than that they are evil and the other is innocent. In this world the so called evil Pentadrians attack unarmed and defenceless people because they can and they will. It is therefore up to the Five and the newly positioned Auraya to stop them. The flatness of the antagonists made it difficult to feel that there was anything to lose. The good vs evil plot was two dimensional and it would have been interesting to know a little more information about why these Pentadrians are considered heathen.
This book has a strong religious commentary, and by that I mean religion and belief systems in this world are by far the most developed aspect of the plot. The belief systems are challenged and debated, mostly by Auraya who has friends with different beliefs. This was a good worldbuilding tactic, as instead of info-dumping we could see what it was like in the world throgh Auraya’s eyes and from a neutral position. Her neutrality even causes her to have a relationship with a Dreamweaver, a group of people the Circlians believe to be heathens.
Despite only getting one side of a multi-dimensional story, it does feel exactly like that; one sided. This is probably an incentive to read the next instalment so we can understand the politics and belief systems of everyone in this world, but a full blown war lasting around one hundred pages in the first book in a trilogy didn’t seem necessary. The steaks didn’t seem that high. The so-called powerful evil enemy was defeated quickly and of course by Auraya the saviour who not one person in this book dislikes.
If you have read The Black Magicians Trilogy, you will find many similarities between Sonea and Auraya. They essentially have the same backstory and go in the same direction; they come from underprivileged backgrounds and successfully work their way up an elite institution against all the odds. Everyone Auraya encounters becomes her best friend. She is blessed with exceptional and unique gifts and is able to become the perfect diplomat. I give Cananvan credit for showing Auraya to have anxieties and empathetic emotions, but every time she struggles she is somehow gifted with something that solves all of her problems. She needs to negotiate with the Siyee, she is gifted with the ability to fly like them. She needs to negotiate with Dreamweavers she falls in love with a Dreamweaver, making her approachable by Dreamweavers even though the Circle she belongs to despises them and is feared by them. It all seemed to easy for likeable Auraya.
The characters might not jump off the page but the world is interesting to read about, even though we don’t get all of the facts in this book. I think it is worth reading at least the second book to see if we can get another side of the Pentadrians aside from the bias offered from the Five.