Although I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, I thought that The Novice was even better, probably by dint of being the middle book and therefore not requiring much exposition. This book allows all the setting up of character, place and themes which took place in the first book to be utilised, and consequently there is much more in the way of plot and subplot. Old characters are developed, new faces are introduced and the story progresses at a swift and exciting pace. Obviously, it is impossible to discuss book two of a trilogy without revealing something of what happened in the first installment, so please be warned.
Whereas The Magician's Guild has only one narrative focus, finding Sonea as she tries to escape the Guild and then her decision whether to accept or reject her magic, The Novicedivides its time into two: in one story, Sonea struggles to find her place among her fellow novices and in the other, Dannyl journeys through the allied lands gathering information about ancient magic on a mission for Lorlen while he struggles with his feelings for his companion. Although the two stories are geographically distant, events in each impact upon the other and so they do not feel disparate as can sometimes happen. Instead, I enjoyed the dual narrative and the chance to see some of the rest of the world outside the Guild, particularly in light of how insular the events of the first book were.
As book two of three, The Novice serves its purpose well. It advances the story from the first book and whets the reader's appetite for the denouement. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing what Akkarin is up to when it is hopefully revealed in The High Lord. I still maintain that this trilogy does nothing particularly startling or original, but sometimes it is enough to simply execute the typical and expected very well. That, for me, is what The Black Magician Trilogy does.