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The Spirit Lens (Collegia Magica) Mass Market Paperback – January 4, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this superbly realized leadoff to Berg's quasi-Renaissance fantasy trilogy, natural science, backed by Sabria's King Philippe, is gaining popularity, leading some magicians to attempt his assassination. Failed mage and self-doubting librarian Portier de Savin-Duplais is chosen by Philippe, his distant cousin, to secretly probe a treacherous plot that involves his beloved queen. With fellow agents confides Ilario, an inane chevalier, and Dante, a ferocious renegade sorcerer, Portier embarks on an intricate quest to save king and kingdom. As in her widely praised Breath and Bone, Berg shapes the well-worn elements of epic fantasy into a lush, absorbing narrative. Even her minor characters, caught up in fiendish plots and deathly secrets, ring regally true, and Portier oscillates between rueful, reluctant, ethics-bending service and painful but necessary revelations while his old world collapses and a new one struggles to be born. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In what appears to open a new series, Berg introduces the kingdom of Sabria, where sorcery is declining under an explosion of knowledge in the natural sciences and a charismatic young king. Failed student of magic Portier de Duplais is now a librarian at the kingdom’s last college of magic. When his distant cousin, King Phillipe, asks him to investigate an attempted murder that showed magical influences, Portier jumps at the chance to leave his rut. To his dismay, Portier is partnered in the investigation with the biggest fool at court. Then he must gain the help of Dante, a brilliant but heretical sorcerer with a penchant for violence. As the investigation continues, so do the deaths, and Portier gets into an increasingly complex fight for his own, the king’s, and the kingdom’s lives. An archetypal mystery and a genuine page-turner that should please both mystery and fantasy fans. --Frieda Murray --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
We have an uninteresting main character trying to solve a mystery given to him by the King, a very distant cousin of his, in order to solve his own problem - why his father, of all people, is trapped in the spirit lens.
I want to get through this book, I really do, but thus far the flow of writing seems to really drag on. I'm going to keep giving it a try in hopes I can get to the other book. Perhaps her writing shifted from book to book as she developed the story further. If I could just read the other book without missing anything, I'd do that.
Aside from being a joy to read, simply for its beautiful writing, "The Spirit Lens" is a mystery and a magical adventure. Three highly entertaining individuals are drawn into a puzzle full of murder, kidnapping, and betrayal. This isn't a Hollywood tale, with a neat ending where everyone lives happily ever after. Friends are made and some are lost. Not every challenge is met successfully. Not every revelation leads to the apprehension of a villain. The mystery is solved - to an extent, but there is plenty of difficulties yet to be overcome.
I, for one, will definitely be picking up the sequels.
As always Ms. Berg has masterfully used the first person voice weaving a tale that feels as if you are hearing it from a good friend. She builds the tension constantly and you come to suspect everyone; even after you've finished reading. Which leads to my only complaint - that I have to wait for the next book!
This books is closer to the feel of her The Bridge of D'Arnath books rather than the Lighthouse series.
Portier, at the start of the novel, isn't the sort of protagonist to inspire ideas of glory or greatness. He's a failed mage, and his intelligence and perception are his strengths. Look elsewhere if you want conventional pop fantasy with overpowered heroes/heroines; the intrigues and mystery in the book are layered, and will pull you deeper into the world that Berg has conjured. I love classic fantasy that doesn't skimp on descriptive writing or character development, and this book manages to deliver characters that are believable and have depth. I only wish there was a little more fleshing out of the world, as the glimpse we have of it here is very promising (I have finished the entire trilogy and encourage the reader to do the same).
The conflicts here are between magic, science and faith as much as they are between men and women. The lines where they blend, merge or clash are explored and woven into the characters' motivations and into the plot itself. There are secrets everywhere, and wonderful, beautiful passages like this, in which a woman speaks of her missing husband: "I have walked this land, touched its living bones, felt the sunlight that clothes it, listened to the music of wind, star, and beast song. But the universe no longer speaks love's name to me." Delicious. But this is only the first book of three. While the major events in this book are satisfyingly concluded, enough of the mystery is left for the second and third.
Like Portier when experiencing magic that he has not created, I "bleed envy."