Verity Brown's Reviews > The Spirit Lens

The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg
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's review
Mar 24, 2012

it was amazing
Read in March, 2012 — I own a copy

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, the plot is complicated, and the world-building is full of mindbendingly unexpected twists. Even Kay's wonderful Tigana, which is certainly a more "literary" work, does not have the level of worldbuilding you'll find here--worldbuilding that you have to pick up on for yourself as you go. If you go into this expecting merely some ordinary alternate-Renaissance-universe fantasy story, you will probably be put off by the reality of what this story contains.

Me? I loved it. Berg takes a multitude of fantasy tropes and subverts them or otherwise turns them on their heads. She also excels at hiding plot points in plain sight, where her characters (very believably!) don't recognize them. Portier--unsure of himself and his place in the world--makes an excellent narrator in this complicated setting.

This first of three novels is something of a detective story, rather than than an ordinary fantasy quest. (Again, I have to say that there is nothing ORDINARY about this book.) The mystery is "solved" at the end, but a lot of threads are left hanging loose. In many ways it is a prequel to the plot of the second book, introducing you to the characters that will play an important role in what turns out to be a more exciting (although somewhat more conventional) story.

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