The Spirit Lens (Collegia Magica, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Spirit Lens (Collegia Magica #1)

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  1,425 ratings  ·  181 reviews
In a kingdom on the verge of a grand renaissance, where natural science has supplanted failing sorcery, someone aims to revive a savage rivalry...

For Portier de Savin-Duplais, failed student of magic, sorcery's decline into ambiguity and cheap illusion is but a culmination of life's bitter disappointments. Reduced to tending the library at Sabria's last collegia magica, he...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Roc Trade (first published December 4th 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Spirit Lens, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Spirit Lens

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
4 Stars

This was a 3 star book at times and 5 stars at other times. I had a difficult time with this one as I found myself frequently putting it down, skipping full sentences and paragraphs, and my mind was often wandering. Yes, this could have been my fault and a reread may be in the future for this one, but I really believe that there was something missing in this story that kept it from being better. I really enjoyed the main characters, Portier, Ilario, and the angry mage Dante. There were mo...more

Huh, what?

That was me listening to this book. The narrator did a bad, bad job. His voice for Ilario was shrill and really, really unnecessary. I wish he would have used his inside-voice for the whole thing, because I can still hear him in my brain, kinda like the time I got Britney Spears' "Toxic" stuck in my head.

My experience listening to it was punctuated by moments of sheer terror as the narrator's Ilario jolted me out of sleep, napping time, a moment of eyelid resting, or other such times...more
Corey Frampton
I have always been a fan of Carol Berg's books - ever since I picked up a copy of her Rai'kirah saga, in a used bookstore many years ago.

This book, is a perfect illustration of why.

Her ability to build believable worlds and characters is unparalleled in the writing world. From the first word to the last, her worlds live and breathe, their magic is alive, the characters suck you in and won't let you go.

With that said - this book continues all of those traditions and really begins to add on fur...more
Jocelyn Zombie
I found this book to be too slow paced, the main character doubted himself thoughout which began to grate on me over time, and as a librarian, I was very irritated with the treatment of my profession. Aside from that, it was interesting and the world-building was clear and good. I wouldn't reread it, but I wouldn't warn people not to buy it.

My main problem with the book: librarianship is often used in fiction as shorthand for a personality type (cautious and timid), or as an example of a situati...more
4.5 stars - Another beautiful book by Carol Berg. I enjoyed her Lighthouse Duet immensely and was equally thrilled with this book. There are certainly similar themes – family, blood, betrayal, societal strictures and competing core values – but The Spirit Lens weaves them in a new and interesting way.

In this Renaissance-type fantasy we see the practitioners of magic and science opposed to one another creating civil unrest. Science is moving ahead and magic is clearly falling out of favor. Howeve...more
I bought this one on its release day (Jan 5th) with high hopes, but though it intrigued me, i felt that it was too dependent on its quirky humor and light gags for its enjoyment so I kept putting it down; however I still planned to decide soon either to immerse into it or fast read and drop and after a while the novel drops its lighter pretense, picks up considerably and it gets extremely good; though fully concluding its main thread, it sets up a very, very interesting sequel

A solid A and high...more
Portier de Savin Duplais, the 14th or 15th cousin of the King is tasked to investigate an attempted murder of the King by ambush, where a secret telescope is left behind at the murder scene by the killer, who bears evidence that he was a mule. A mule is a person who is bespelled by a magician. The King requires that Portier use the services of Ilaro de Sylvae, the bastard brother of the Queen, who acts like a flamboyant fop and fool. The King believes that Ilaro will open doors to the Queen's co...more
A failed magic student turned meek librarian, a crude, rude magician turned outcast and hermit, and a foolish fop become unlikely allies in attempting to uncover vile practices and unspeakable necromancy aimed at King and Crown in this first book of the Collegia Magica. All have murky issues in their pasts, and none of them are what they seem. NOTHING is what it seems in this fantasy of illusion. Set in a world just beginning to discover the physical sciences and still feeling the scars from a h...more
Petula Darling
Like a rocky coast during a hurricane, I was pummeled by similes in every paragraph. They sprung up like unwanted daisies in my yard. They teemed like vermin. They swarmed like bees. They were like ants at a picnic, knots in a discount lumber pile, seagulls at a bait shack , and snakes in that Indiana Jones movie.

Also? This book is as interesting as watching paint dry. And that paint is beige.
I’ve decided to read this book after reading a few good critics praising the freshness and the marvellous world built by Carol Berg where magic and science were pitied against each other. Indeed it seemed like a refreshing topic, a universe where both fields exist in a flimsy balance.
The book starts with Portier Savin-Duplais, a failed student of sorcery and reserved librarian being asked by his distant cousin Phillipe (who also happens to be the King of Sabria) to investigate a strange murder a...more
I don't know...I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it just didn't work out like I wanted.

All of the characters were one dimensional and dull. Even when some additional characterization was added, it was kind of latched onto the side and never really explored.

Plus, someone needs to talk to Portier about his investigation skills. It was like 'all the evidence points to so and so, so they must be the culprit'. Then new information came to light and 'oh no, now this person looks guilty an...more
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±
2 1/2

A sort of cop-procedural type mystery story set in a fantasy setting, with Portier being the king's spy to try and find out the truth behind an assassination attempt along with Ilario, the fop, and Dante, the taciturn mage.

It was very slow going at first with some, imo, extraneous world building and belabored set-up. It did pick up about half-way through, though, which is what saved it from a full 2-star rating.

The mystery part of it was interesting enough, though based on some reviews I re...more
Not her best book (others may disagree), but some of Berg's best writing. The tale was just too gritty for my taste. Berg obviously loves words and uses them well.

Love the voice of the POV character. His humor and humanity made him sympathetic ... even when he wasn't. Only once "broke character" which he castigated himself for the rest of the book, but it was way out of character for him.

Love the misdirection--some of which Portier catches, some of which he doesn't.

Cover art quibble: who is this...more
Carol Berg's books are always a learning experience...her worlds are always different from one another, but have so much realistic detail that it's amazing they're not really REAL! The mystery in this one...the many of them...actually did surprise me.'s never a mystery who her main character falls in love with (and that's the only quibble I ever have with her books). It was a great read and I look forward to see what else she may come up with for this new universe of hers.
I kept flipping between liking this a lot and being quite involved in the events, and being rather bored with the lot of them. There were some nice twists, and I liked the tension between the world's science and its magic, but the characters weren't close to being my favourites. I will read/listen to the second at least, because Anne seems likely to be a more interesting POV character.
Both the language and the characters' relationships are more formal and stilted than I prefer and made the first 1/3 of the book a bit difficult for me to get through. As I became acclimated to the author's words and world though, I enjoyed the book more and more until I was very sorry to have to put it down when finished. Looks like there will be a sequel though, so more good stuff to come.
A librarian/archivist at the Collegia Magica takes on the investigation of a series of murders and the disappearance of the King's right hand man, with help from a foppish lordling and a powerful but decidedly pissy sorceror. Reminiscent in tone, setting and types of characters to NAME OF THE ROSE.
C.E. Murphy
Basically reading anything by Carol Berg makes me despair of ever writing anything actually worth reading in my entire life. THE SPIRIT LENS is no different. Go forth, read it.
Althea Ann
I feel a little weird about giving this book (and its sequel) 5 stars, because they are not, and do not aim to be, Great Literature. This book certainly does not have the depth and layers of Eco's 'The Name of the Rose,' although it shares a similar atmosphere. However, for sheer entertainment value - I just love Berg's writing, and this is definitely one of her best.
It's a well-crafted genre mystery, with wizards.
Intrigue and plot twists abound, and there a lots of clues to put together and fi...more
I bought this one because I accidentally picked up the second one first. Now I wish I'd never got either. I figured: attractive looking person on cover with strange magical accoutrements, a description on the back of magical conspiracy, what could be bad about that? But it was so. So. Boring.

Despite being in (apparently) grave danger, the characters, even minor ones we'd never see again, often stopped to give page long speeches. The dialogue was way overwrought. The POV character was whiny and...more
It took me a very long time to become engaged in this book. The style seemed stilted and I just couldn't engage with the main characters, who seemed both uninteresting and confusing. To me, the most interesting characters were the minor ones. I'm not sure why I persisted - perhaps because I've enjoyed Carol Berg's books before - but I'm very glad I did. About three-quarters of the way through, or perhaps a bit before that, the plot started to really interest me and the narrator came alive as a p...more
In the Renaissance like kingdom of Sabria failed magician turned librarian and cousin to King Phillipe, Portier de Savin-Duplais is tasked by his royal brethren to root out the traitors who have attempted to take his life. What follows is a solid mystery tale within a beautifully realized world fraught with tension between science and magic. With The Spirit Lens Berg has created a fantastic new setting and kicked off what looks to be an entertaining and original series.

The real strength of The S...more
Verity Brown
I spotted the second book on the rack at the supermarket, and I knew I just HAD read this trilogy. I had read Transformation years ago (another supermarket rack find) and was impressed with Berg's writing even then, although the vagaries of my reading life resulted in "more Berg books" getting relegated further and further down on my reading list. Until, as I said, I spotted The Soul Mirror and read the cover blurb.

I do need to warn other readers: this is not an "easy" read. The prose is dense,...more
In this fantasy Renaissance kingdom, magic falters as scientific discoveries begin to be made. Portier's only dream was to be a sorcerer, but although he can sense magic he cannot perform it himself. Instead, he becomes the magical college's librarian. After long years spent among dusty books, he is summoned to the king's side to investigate repeated attempts on the king's life. Every piece of evidence points at the queen, but the king refuses to believe the worst of her without definitive proof...more
I enjoyed the book well enough. I've read a few of Carol Berg's books. This wasn't my favorite, but there are aspects that I really liked.

I liked the 3 main characters well enough. I sympathized with the narrator--he went through a lot of stuff! The twist of magic and different ways to practice magic were very interesting and well planned. I like the Scarlet Pimpernel character. Even though that is a well used plot, Berg did that well. I was relieved that character was there.

Some of the events...more
Abby Miller
Amazing fantasy by Carol Berg. The detail, the characters all came together in a well told tale of magic, swords, and kingdoms under attack without pandering to the audience all the cliched tropes which seem to populate the genre.

I adored the unlikely hero, and cousin to the King ,Duplais, a somewhat 'failed,' magician as well as son. Nothing is simple in this tale, nor are the supporting characters of a Knight, (Ilario,) and Mage, (Dante,) to be taken at face value for they all have their own...more
Petra Eriksson
Since this book is written by my favorite author there wasn't a chance that I would not like it, but I found out that I did not like it as much as her earlier work. I really liked Portier and I liked Ilario even more but I wished there was more evidence of ther friendship. But what I really missed was the beautiful world of The Lighthouse series. Not the world itself but the the vivid souroundings and powerful magic that existed there. Even though I found the plot in The Spirit Lens very interes...more
I would give this 2.5 stars if the option were's an interesting plot line and I read the description of the second book and am not sure if I'll read it...that too sounds like an interesting plot line, but...I wasn't crazy about the author's writing was overwritten, as in too much filler and also the language was too flowery and trying to be "in period" too hard..this took away from the storyline quite a bit and made some details almost obscured. Also, the main characte...more
It's taken a long time for me to get through this book. For a while I considered giving it 3 stars for the lengthy, plodding style of most of it's otherwise very delightful, likeable text. But the way Berg continues to surprise me with her careful character twists easily deserves the fourth star. She creates people of such general depth and value that it's hard to lose them over the days that follow the termination of one of her novels. This series will continue, as she very pointedly did not wr...more
I really enjoyed this book. It has the format of your typical murder-mystery, but instead there's magic--part unraveling the mystery of magic, part discovering the motives of the killers, part learning who you can really trust. The setting could have been deeper, but it was enough to start off the series. The main character, Portier, took a while to figure out, but since the plot was interesting enough I didn't get hung up on that. The prose is rather formal, kind of like a Jane Austin book--I l...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Translation to Spanish 2 3 Jul 07, 2014 06:13PM  
  • The Alchemist of Souls (Night's Masque, #1)
  • The House on Durrow Street (Mrs. Quent, #2)
  • Blue and Gold
  • The Silver Skull (Swords of Albion, #1)
  • Secrets of the Sands (Children of the Desert, #1)
  • The Alchemist's Apprentice (The Alchemist, #1)
  • The Thief-Taker's Apprentice (The Thief-Taker's Apprentice #1)
  • Imager's Challenge (Imager Portfolio, #2)
  • Greatshadow (Dragon Apocalypse, #1)
  • The Whitefire Crossing (Shattered Sigil, #1)
  • Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1)
  • Miserere: An Autumn Tale
  • Feast of Souls (The Magister Trilogy, #1)
  • The King's Bastard (King Rolen's Kin, #1)
  • The Spirit War (The Legend of Eli Monpress, #4)
  • Elfland (Aetherial Tales, #1)
  • The Other Lands (Acacia, #2)
  • The House of the Stag
Carol Berg is the author of the epic fantasy
The Books of the Rai-kirah, The Bridge of D'Arnath Quartet, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award winning Lighthouse Duet - Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone - the standalone novel Song of the Beast , and the three novels of the Collegia Magica.

Berg holds a degree in mathematics from Rice University, and a degree in computer science from the University of Col...more
More about Carol Berg...
Transformation (Rai-Kirah, #1) Restoration (Rai-Kirah, #3) Revelation (Rai-Kirah, #2) Son of Avonar (The Bridge of D'Arnath, #1) Flesh and Spirit (Lighthouse, #1)

Share This Book