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The Soul Mirror (Collegia Magica) [Paperback]

Carol Berg
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 515 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (4 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451463749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451463746
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 929,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
When Anne de Vernase is summoned unexpectedly to court as a lady in waiting to the Queen by the hated Duplais she finds that the plot to kill the King did not end with her father's imprisonment. Distrusted by the other courtiers because of her family history Anne finds at court things and most especially people are not what they seem as she fights to clear her father's name and save those she loves.

This book is an excellent follow up to The Spirit Lens: A Novel of the Collegia Magica and wraps up the story that began in book one of the series. However there are enough threads left at the end that you can still see space for the third book which will be called "The Daemon Prism " according to the author's blog. I greatly enjoyed this novel and it kept me up at night wanting to finish it as the twists and turns play out to the very end of the story. If anything , this is an improvement on "the spirit lens" and I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series next year though it will be hard to see how it can better this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful book 25 April 2011
By Anna
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Like The Spirit Lens, it's clever and exciting.

After the first book, which was narrated by Portier, it should have been difficult to get the reader as engaged with another character. This book is told from the viewpoint of Anne Vernase - a woman with an awful recent history - and the way that Anne develops (or learns to see herself) throughout the book is marvellous.

I don't want to spoil the plot twists, but they are highly satisfying! I'm so pleased there's a third in the series.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale that takes the Collegia Magica series to the top level 5 Jan 2011
By Liviu C. Suciu - Published on
INTRODUCTION: "The Spirit Lens" was the first novel by the author that I read completely and I quite liked it. Towards last January's review of it, I said:

"After I got into the style of the novel and its happenings started hooking me, its main attraction were the twists and turns and the characters about whom slowly we start having quite different impressions than at the start. Revelations from the past coupled to traits that come at fore only after a while mean that what we believe at the beginning will be quite changed by the end. This unpredictability raised The Spirit Lens most in my estimation since in so many genre books the characters are marked: "the destined one, the sidekick, the love interest, the villain, the noble but doomed one", while here there is much more subtlety and even at the end when we seemingly know a lot more, there is a lot of uncertainty at least with regard to the big picture."

As time passed, The Spirit Lens stayed much more in memory than other books I seemingly enjoyed more on first read, so it got a place in my recommended books of 2010, while its sequel "The Soul Mirror" became a high expectation novel for 2011. And it delivered!

The following part will have spoilers for The Spirit Lens, so beware if you have not read it so far.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The first thing to know about "The Soul Mirror" is that while a first person narration as The Spirit Lens, it switches narrators from Portier to Anne du Vernase who was a relatively minor character in the first novel, though her actions are quite important at the end of it.

Four years after the end of The Spirit Lens, 22 year old Anne du Vernase, goddaughter of King Philippe is trying hard to keep her family estate going with a disappeared father condemned in large part by her testimony as murderer and traitor, a mad mother now in keeping of her brothers far away, an imprisoned brother and a magician younger sister whose discoveries kill her just before the novel starts - at the magical College at Seravain where the 17 year old was studying. And they don't even let Anne inside when she goes to collect her sister's belongings.

The hated Portier, the investigator who broke open the big treason/necromancy case in The Spirit Lens and was the prosecutor in the King's name at the trial in-absentia of her father and his accomplices, arrives with a royal warrant demanding Anne to come to Queen Eugenie's palace in Merona as a maid of honor while also announcing the dispossession of the Vernase estates for the treason of the king's former bosom friend.

Portier is now the chief of the Queen's household administration, his former friend/helper Dante is the Queen's magician and a figure of dread and darkness, Ilario is still playing the fool, and the Queen's (adopted) mother and former Regent, Antonia is playing an "I want power" manipulation game with the Queen and her semi-estranged and pretty much always away husband King, while portents of dread and magic are continually seen in Merona.

Anne is thrown into the fray where nothing is at is seems, friends and enemies are hard to discern, while the Aspirant (supposedly her vanished traitor father) and his clique are ready to take the final step in the plans laid so long ago and that were only partly thwarted in The Spirit Lens...

If this description does not hook you let's talk about the other strengths of the novel. The narration of Anne is pitch perfect and seemed to me much smoother than Portier's from the first page. It may just be that I got used with the author' style in this series, but the pages really turned by themselves and the book hits no narrative walls.

The characters of The Spirit Lens are now seen through Anne's quite different perspective and I greatly enjoyed the glimpses we got of Portier and Ilario, while Dante becomes the truly dominant character - even as an object of fear and dread for Anne - that Portier's narration could not really portray him. We encounter other old friends and sometimes quite different facets of them than in The Spirit Lens, while the nasty and power-hungry Antonia is enjoyably loathsome and naive new Queen's physician Roussel, a kindly middle-aged commoner may be Anne's only friend at the court, or at least this is what she believes...

The Soul Mirror takes place in a shorter period of time than The Spirit Lens - as in there chapters are named by day/time - and the tension builds inexorably towards a powerful action filled last part that is awesome. Twists and turns abound and while some are of "could it really be?" far-fetched ones that experienced fantasy readers always enjoy guessing, others are more easily discernible, though all-in-all they keep the reader on his or her toes all the time.

The only minor niggle I has was that the author truly puts a lot on Anne's shoulders and at some point, I was thinking, enough, let the girl have a break, though she proves more than adept to handle her known enemies.

The world building is even better than in the first novel - again familiarity helps, but The Soul Mirror brings quite a lot of new things to what we know from The Spirit Lens - and there are quite a few moments that make one want to revisit the book quite a few times.

A novel that stakes an early claim to my Top 10 list of 2011 - currently at #2-#3 - The Soul Mirror (A++) takes the Collegia Magica series to the next level with a gripping tale that essentially ends all the threads from The Spirit Lens, though enough loose ends are left so new series books can follow. Magic, science, family feuds, a kingdom and maybe even a world - or at least its laws of nature - in peril, a great heroine with a superb cast and traditional fantasy does not get better than this!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical writing and characters 18 Jan 2011
By Sunfrost - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anne de Vernase, 22 years old, "plain, dull, and poor," a devoted believer of science, a magic skeptic, hailing from a once-perfect-now-crumbled family, is about to have her already messed-up world shredded apart even more thoroughly. Her mother is insane, her father is an infamous fugitive, her younger brother is held prisoner by the king, and she's just learned that her magically talented younger sister is died. Then the calculating, cold Portier de Savin-Duplais (ex-librarian and failed sorceror, who went undercover and pointed the damning finger at her father with tales of evil magic conspiracies in "The Spirit Lens") arrives at her declining family estate. He brings a very relunctant Anne to the royal castle.

There, she finds that her life is even more unstable than she realizes. She meets extraordinary people: a beautiful, infertile, damaged queen; a foolish yet most noble knight; a devoted, kindly doctor. Portier de Savin-Duplais constantly watches her, but he is annoyingly unhelpful and Anne cannot determine his role in the game. And Dante, the green-eyed demonish mage who charges the very air with sinister magic and dark secrets, scares the bones out of her knees. Anne can't even be certain of what is real and what isn't. Did her sister die in a cruel accident, a murder, or is there yet another explanation? Does that voice in her head mean she is going insane, too? And is magic, so easy to deny before, actually a great and terrible reality in her world?

Anne is a wonderful heroine. Portier was the (very awesome) hero of the first (very awesome) book, "The Spirit Lens," and it's interesting to see how much Anne dislikes him in this second book. Anne has a strong, capable, very real voice. While trying to uncover the secrets around her and trying to save her family, Anne proves very intelligent and sharp--yet she also makes her own fair share of mistakes and she's vulnerable. She can't stop the power-hungry Lady Antonia from scheming her unwanted betrothal to a brutish lord, and she can't rescue her brother from jail after a heartbreaking visit. But Anne plods on, and things go from bad to worse, and the truth twists and turns in wholly unexpected ways.

I love it when the supporting characters are just as interesting as (or perhaps even more interesting than) the main characters. Lord Ilario as the court fool and noble knight is awesome (so, so awesome), and although we saw little of her, Lady Patrice was also a likeable surprise. I loved very glimpse of Portier I got. Ambrose's suffering and hard bitterness is tragic. But Dante becomes the mysterious, dark, truly fascinating force to watch out for.

Carol Berg's prose is just splendid. I can't wait for Daemon Prism, the third book. I need a time machine to travel to next year.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, wonderful story 16 Jan 2011
By N. Finney - Published on
Carol Berg's books get better and better. While I did not so much enjoy her earlier novels, her previous Lighthouse Duology (Flesh & Spirit, Breath and Bone), was wonderful. This Collegia Magica trilogy is, if possible, even better.

The writing is elegant, lyrical and fluid. The various characters are vivid and multi-dimensional. It's exciting to read about people of whom not much is thought in the world, who develop and emerge as far more than what they were at the beginning. Often when I write a critique of a book on Amazon, I describe how I could not care about the characters in a novel (which otherwise I might have enjoyed tremendously). This is not a complaint I have about these books!

Regarding the plot, other reviewers have gone into far more detail, so I don't think I need to repeat anything here. Suffice it to say that these novels combine the best of what I enjoy in genre fiction: mystery, fantasy, historical background, etc. I can't wait till the next installment of the Collegia Magica trilogy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work well on Kindle 2 8 Jun 2011
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on
I've given the book 4 stars because I enjoyed it. I was left a little dissatisfied with the Spirit Lens, and that is because the story continues in this book, which I found more satisfying. It is important to read the Spirit Lens first.

I did want to warn prospective buyers that there are three letters reproduced in the text in a different type, and these are almost completely illegible. You can't enlarge the type, and the text-to-speech doesn't work either.

So I recommend the book, but not on a Kindle 2, at any rate.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book 23 Feb 2011
By Makie Knight - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Normally I don't like female narrators-authors tend to stick to annoying sterotypes with them. Thus I was somewhat reluctant to start this book even though I quite enjoyed the first one in the series. Anne however proved once again that Carol Berg has an amazing talent for creating characters. This book was not the typical boring middle book and I can't wait for the next book as there is still plenty left to be resolved and hopefully a little romance to come.
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