The Spirit Lens (Collegia Magica) Mass Market Paperback – 4 Jan 2011
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About the Author
Though Colorado is home, Carol Berg's roots are in Texas, in a family of teachers, musicians, and railroad men. She has degrees in mathematics from Rice University and computer science from the University of Colorado, but managed to squeeze in minors in English and art history along the way. She has combined a career as a software engineer with her writing, while also raising three sons. She lives with her husband at the foot of the Colorado mountains.
Top Customer Reviews
It's written in first person, narrated by the king's spy, and plenty happens to keep you listening.
As I listened to it in audio format, I will add that the narrator was just okay. His voice was quite annoying. He spoke in a middle class English accent with some oddities, such as 'dawg' and 'sawft' for dog and soft. He sounded quite old for the character too.
I will definitely buy book two, The Mirror of Souls, as it has a different first person narrator, a woman, so the reader will be different.
I opted for 4 stars: 5 for the book, much less for the reader.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Portier de Duplais, former student of magic, current head-librarian and obscure relation to Phillipe, the King of Sabria, is summoned unexpectedly and charged to discovery who is behind an attempt on the King's life. In his new position as agente confide, Portier is unable to trust anyone, even his fellow agentes. Unfortunately, the mystery isn't so simple as an assassination plot. It involves the abduction of Phillipe's closest friend, the acquisition of three very strange magic objects taken from Phillipe's would-be assassin, necromancy, multiple murders, untimely accidents and a network of intricate deception. With all fingers pointed accusingly at Philippe's wife, the Queen Eugenie, Portier must uncover who among the growing list of suspects masks their evil intent and who is truly innocent before his own life (and soul) becomes forfeit to the long-buried magic uncovered by his probing.
At first, The Spirit Lens is a barrage of names that I found to be a bit overwhelming. However, as the book goes on, each and every one of these seemingly innocuous people has great relevance to the plot. The Spirit Lens is a plot-driven tale with allot of ground to cover, and there is absolutely no time for dallying. In the prologue Portier is handed the Problem at Hand and from chapter one to its conclusion, we are hurtling together down a twisting path to solve that problem. As the reader, I was kept guessing, making hypothesis, and forced to change my mind when a lead didn't follow through--much like Portier.
There are two points that prevented me from giving this book a five-star review, though. First: While I found Berg's side characters interesting from the get-go, it took nearly half the volume to warm up to Portier. I just couldn't get a firm grasp of the kind of person he is. This is very surprising after reading books such as Berg's Rai-Kirah trilogy and the Lighthouse Duet, both narrated by men with very definitive points of view.
Second: The mystery is the driving force behind the novel and is unquestionably gripping (I devoured the entire novel in two days). However, because of the rapid pace of the book, I felt that I never got a firm grasp of the world that Sabria resides in. Once again, this was disappointing because in the aforementioned books by Berg, the world-building is expert. In those books I felt I had a firm grasp of the cultures, the time-periods, everything. The series are steeped in definitive moods that are unique to their individual stories. In The Spirit Lens, I didn't have that strong sense of place and time. Certainly, the characters have french-sounding names and their mannerism hint toward Renaissance-era Italy, but those connections are not very descriptive of the world Sabria rests in.
The conclusion of The Spirit Lens sets up nicely for the next book,with some loose threads neatly clipped and others left flapping in the wind. There is much promised for book two and I hope further volumes will expand upon this world Berg has begun to create, and bring Portier's personality out. Despite my complaints, I imagine the revelations in store will continue to surprise. I eagerly await the next volume of the Collegia Magica trilogy.
This novel introduces us to three new heroes: Portier, librarian turned sleuth, tasked by the king to investigate a lethal magical conspiracy; Ilario, the queen's half-brother and court fop; and Dante, a mage of tremendous ability and uncertain temperament. Watching these three interact is worth the price of admission all on its own. Unlike an earlier reviewer, I found Portier to be an extremely engaging narrator, and was right there with him as he doggedly wrestled with the crippling aftereffects of a decade-old trauma. As with all of Ms. Berg's heroes, he and the others possess an innate decency that it's impossible not to respond to. (Even Dante, I think, in spite of what he finds it necessary to do to further their investigation.)
As for the plot--Ms. Berg is careful to seed the ground with a maddening array of clues regarding what the conspiracy is aiming for and who might be involved in it, without giving very much away. I have a feeling that all of this is leading up to what will eventually be a tremendous finale, and I'm already impatiently awaiting her next volume.
Highly recommended. Really, you can't do better than this if you're a fantasy fan.
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.
This book is about Portier de Savin-Duplais; a failed magical student who is called upon to help solve the mystery of an attempted assassination of the king. Joining him in this investigation are a foppish Noble named Ilario de Sylvae and brilliant (but grumpy) sorceror named Dante.
The premise sounded excellent and I really did enjoy Berg's intricate descriptions of the surroundings and the intricate magic system. I also enjoyed that this book is written in at a higher literary level. That being said I only read to page 100 and had a lot of problems even getting that far into this book.
I was not drawn into the mystery to find out who wanted to assassinate the King. The King was not likable, and to be honest, I really didn't care if someone assassinated him or not. He doesn't seem to do that good of a job running the kingdom, so I just didn't care. The mystery behind the Spirit Lens was intriguing but not intriguing enough to keep me hooked on the story.
I also did not enjoy the characters. Portier is so self-deprecating and spineless that I was kind of hoping for something (anything) to happen to him; he just never stands up for himself and bumbles through the book. Ilario is over stereo-typed as a pompous noble fop, I think he was supposed to add humor to the story, but for me he feel flat. Dante is the only character that redeems this book; the portion of the book where he was introduced into the story was entracing, but then he is not the focus anymore and I lost interest again.
This book is very long-winded. I loved beautiful descriptions, but that was taken to the extreme in this book. I found myself skipping full paragraphs and was still able to follow the story fine. Then I would stop back-up and reread what I had skipped just to confirm I hadn't missed anything (I hadn't). Around the point where I stopped more and more Frenchlike noble names are being thrown at the reader. All these names refer to characters that I have no frame of reference for, can't relate to, and can't remember.
In the end I just lost patience with it all. I was having a lot of trouble keeping my eyes open to read more than a page or two at a time. I know Berg's books are set up very deliberately, but for some reason I just can't handle it with this one. I really wasn't enjoying it and I have a ton of other books to read so I stopped.
Overall this book just was not my thing; which is not to say it was poorly written...at times the writing was quite beautiful. I was just not drawn into the plot, did not like the characters, and thought the pacing was way too slow. If you are into deliberately paced fantasy mysteries this may be the book for you. If you like your plot a bit more frantic with deep characterization I would look elsewhere. If you are interested in reading books by Berg I would start with the Rai Kirah series; that characters and plot were much more engaging.
From the start, we are drawn into a world of dangerous duplicity, where no one can truly be trusted, not even the fellow investigators. The characters are all very vivid and fully rendered, with flaws and complexities that make it difficult to label anyone unequivocally "good" or "evil." Some of the mysteries turn out just the way we expect them to, others surprise us completely, but in a believable way. In other words, this is a very well-crafted mystery that keeps the reader guessing.
One of the strengths of this story, compared with some of Ms. Berg's other works, is that we are eased into the world at just the right pace. In the past, I have been somewhat overwhelmed by the myriad names of people and places, as well as other intricacies of the world of the books--especially in the first several chapters. "The Spirit Lens," while maintaining a quick and engaging pace, manages to introduce people and places gradually, allowing us to keep them all straight without difficulty. In addition, the larger, deeper mysteries to be solved--also a staple of Ms. Berg's books--reveal themselves gradually, which also helps keep the plot from getting overwhelmingly complicated.
Lastly, I am impressed by the ending of the book. When reading the first book of a trilogy or series, I always fear that I will be left feeling unsatisfied by its conclusion, with a compelling cliffhanger but no sense of resolution. Fortunately, "The Spirit Lens" manages to wrap up enough of the threads of its plot arc to feel largely resolved, but leaves plenty of mysteries still to be solved in the coming books. I eagerly await the next installment, and I do not feel cheated with an incomplete story.
My recommendation: For anyone who has read and enjoyed books by Carol Berg before, this one will surely not disappoint. It remains to be seen whether this will become my favorite Carol Berg series, but it definitely has potential. For those new to her novels, I think this is as good a place to start as any--that is, unless you just don't have the patience to wait around until the remaining books are published to find out the rest of the story. Happy reading!