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The Spirit Lens: A Novel of the Collegia Magica by Carol Berg
Cover Artist: Gordon Crabb
Review by Mel Jacob
Roc Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451463111
Date: 05 January 2010 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Prolific and award winning author, Carol Berg keeps the reader on edge as she recounts the efforts of Portier de Savin-Duplais, librarian and failed mage, in The Spirit Lens as he investigates who wants his cousin the king dead. The king believes in science, the queen in magic. Their young son died, and the queen turned to her mages. Many suspect the queen of planning the accident to her husband. The king loves the queen and believes otherwise.

The previous investigator and close friend of the king, Michel de Vernase, disappeared and no one has heard from him for over a year. The king appoints Portier as his agente confide and assigns Illario, his brother-in-law, to access the nobility. Portier, concerned magic is at work, recruits Dante, a brilliant, heretical mage. It takes all Portier's skills to get the three to work as team.

Portier suspects one of the mages in the queen's household and urges Dante to join them. Dante's demonstrations intrigue the mages and frighten the rest of the household. He succeeds, but demands Portier as his assistant. Anxious for greater freedom to investigate members of the household, Portier feigns dislike of Dante and manages to be assigned as secretary to Illario. Most regard Illario as a fop good only to flaunt clothes and amuse others.

Another attempt on the king's life, this one by fire, fuels anger and more demands against the queen. Portier suffers nasty burns when he tries to save others. The queen's mages manage to induce a rain storm that douses the fire.

Portier admires Maura ney Billard, able administrator of the queen's household. She helps him in many ways. He learns she also attended the Collegia Seravain where he failed his exam as a mage and became the librarian of the college instead. He wonders why she left.

The librarian/agente confide incurs more than his share of injuries as he seeks to uncover who wants the king dead and why. Illario believes his sister the queen is the victim of a conspiracy, but can't explain why. Dante's interest lies in his thirst for knowledge and to learn more of what old magic remains. As Portier discovers more about his fellow agentes, he finds unexpected depths, but also worries whether he can trust them.

Berg keeps the pages turning and takes Portier and the team from crisis to crisis. She manages to make even mundane tasks reek of suspense and danger. Planned as a trilogy titled Collegia Magica, the remaining books are Soul Mirror (2011) and Daemon Prism (2012).

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