IT’S tough having to live up to some kind of standard, especially one set by your family. It’s near impossible when you’re desdended from a prestigious bloodline of magic users and do not have a jot of magic talent.
Thus, our hero Portier de Duplais is forced to abandon his dreams of becoming a sorceror and settle for a quiet and boring life as a librarian at the Collegia Magica, where potential magicians go to be trained.
Depressed and dispirited by the way his life has turned out, and tortured by his demons that author Carol Berg coyly hints at – setting up future storylines, no doubt – Portier glumly trudges through his days in the dusty confines of the library.
Then, Phillipe, the king Sabria, gives him a purpose in life when he sets Portier a “little” problem to solve: Someone is trying to assasinate Phillipe and the king, who happens to be Portier’s distant cousin, wants Portier to find the culprit.
Although he has about as much experience as an investigator as he does a magician, Portier accepts the new “job”. Though he probably would’ve thought twice if he had known that he’d have two unconventional partners foisted on him: the foppish Chevelier Illario and the surly sorceror Dante.
Portier has his hands full with his fellow “agentes”. Having two unpredictable characters as colleagues while conducting an undercover operation in the politically-complex Sabrian court certainly does a number on his sanity.
I have to say that, although Ilario and Dante seem like complete cliches in the beginning – Illario is the consumate fashion-obsessed fop and Dante, the typical tortured-genius of sorcerer with a bad attitude – I was glad to discover that the two do indeed have some complexity to them. In fact, Dante and Illario’s actions sometimes left me dumbstruck with amazement. Unpredictable characters make for interesting tales!
This is Berg’s fourth series, yet she has maintained, if not exceeded, her track record of producing compelling fantasy yarns.
While her last series, The Lighthouse Duet, crawled at the start, The Spirit Lens sprints off, with Portier receiving the missive from his royal cousin and going undercover in the Sabrian court as Illario’s supposedly brown-nosing secretary in double quick time.