The Spirit Lens

Reviewer: Katherine Ray

Author: Carol Berg

Published: 2010

Reviewed: 2010-04-03

Publisher: Roc

It occured to me as I sat down to do another set of reviews that I
hadn't done any on Carol Berg's books, which I discovered last year on
the prompting of our dear Onseck. I began by reading "Transformation"
(ex-demon fighter turned slave finds he has to put himself back
together) and "Revelation" (same ex-demon fighter fails to go back to
his old life and finds something new and no, not exciting, rather
frightening in fact), but got bogged down in the third book of that
series "Restoration." There's a quartet of books called "The Bridge
of D'Arnath" which didn't have gripping synopses and failed to keep my
attention after a few chapters, but the stand alone "Song of the
Beast" was rather awesome. That one is: musician stumbles out the
door of a prison after 17 years and tries to figure out why someone
was mad enough to throw him in there in the first place. Also, it has
dragons. The duet "Flesh and Spirit" and "Breath and Bone" started a
bit slower than the other books of hers I'd read but was quite
enjoyable. "The Spirit Lens" is the most recent book and looks to
join a trilogy, "Lens, Mirror and Prism," though I've yet to figure
out what that symbolism is supposed to mean.

All of Berg's books take the main character from a rotten spot to a
not-so-rotten spot. I've seen complaints before of "Why are all the
fantasy books about the one true king? Where are all the democracies?
Why are all the characters in fantasies nobles and knights and isn't
that very elitist?" Well, Berg falls in that category. Her
characters are the cousin of the king, the heir to the throne, the
husband of the queen, the grandson of the very-important-one, the
sister of the duke, etc. etc. The main character of "The Spirit Lens"
may very well be the most plebian of the main characters I've come
across, being the 15th cousin of the king, though she still has two
books to change that and make him more special.

She's also very careful to make the love interest a character you can
either respect, like, or at minimum believe to be real. Which, means,
yes, there's usually a love interest.

On to "Spirit Lens" itself. My copy happened to have the last 30
pages flipped upside-down, oops. The world is one where there are
magicians and one way they can get power is bleed people of the right
bloodline. So they tattooed everyone of the right bloodline, which
was, um, really smart or something. The king calls up his 15th cousin
and says "You know a little about magic, there's this plot that
obviously involved magic, find the traitor." This results in the main
character going undercover with the help of two other people. There
are plots. There are people who end up dead. There are no battles.
There's a lot about how the magic works in that world. There is no
happily ever after, that's for book three, but there is an end to the
first part of the story.