THE SPIRIT LENS
Berg is a master world builder that novice fantasy authors would do
well to study. Her characters are well rounded, and her created environment becomes as familiar as one's own backyard. The fantastic elements of the story are normal -- not ordinary, just
a natural part of the world. Plus, the plot is nuanced and detailed. This first installment in a new trilogy, Collegia Magica, is a winner.
Failed magician Portier de Savin-Duplais has been charged by his distant cousin -- the king of Sabria, no less -- to find out who tried to assassinate the king nearly a year ago, and to bring the assassins to justice before the anniversary of the attempt.
Portier's efforts, however, are hampered by the king's insistence that the queen's half-brother Ilario assist, and by the calendar -- the anniversary is less than two months hence. Portier wisely seeks out Dante, a rogue master mage, to help with the investigation. Maybe Dante can unlock the secrets of the odd glass lens that shows the viewer scenes from the world of the dead -- especially since the lens was found near the scene of the crime. (ROC, Jan., 464 pp., $16.00)