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The Spirit Lens

(Collegia Magica #1)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,254 ratings  ·  231 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
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Ace Books (first published December 4th 2009)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  2,254 ratings  ·  231 reviews

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May 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This was not your typical fantasy read. It was more of a mystery/detective story set in a high magic fantasy world that was a bit reminiscent of Renaissance France.

Portier de Savin-Duplais, a failed student of magic and distant cousin to the king, is called upon by his royal cousin to covertly investigate a failed plot to assassinate the king and the disappearance of the previous investigator, the kings best friend Michel. He was assisted by court fop Ilario and the mysterious and short tempere
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jocelyn No
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, librarian
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
Petula Darling
Jun 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldnt-finish
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.
Apr 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a weird detective fantasy book. I've hardly ever read anything of the kind, if at all. It was probably closer to The Name of the Rose than to any of the fantasy books I've read. There were several interesting characters, including the main POV character and his two sidekicks as well as some secondary ones. The story was not the most exciting one and I'd have been very happy if the ending hadn't fizzled out. It was still a worthy read.

I can't decide whether this is a 3 or a 3.5 star rea
Corey Frampton
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2011
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
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
May 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
C.E. Murphy
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it

- 1st Listen -
Great start to a new series and loaded with information on several layers: plot, characters, motives, history, magic & connections. I like how the story seemed to morph as more information was dropped. Not sure if I love Portier. In some ways, he's too straight laced. I think he'll grow on me though.

Adding the series to my TBR! And keeping the audiobook in my current rotation to listen to between other stories.
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-reads, fantasy
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
Sep 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
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
I love the world-building here (I'm a sucker for Renaissance-level tech), and the characters are engaging, but my genre expectations were calibrated wrong. This was billed to me as a procedural mystery, and for a significant portion of the book it is. But a procedural--a mystery--needs more than a suspect; it needs a motive, a moment when I go, "Ah ha, of course!" Here, the motive was muddy at best. I never had that satisfying moment of revelation; instead, it emerged, the entire book was simply ...more
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of fantasy
Recommended to Sue by: Annette Gisby
Shelves: fantasy
Sue Adams I thought this was a really good book and a good start to a fantasy series.
It's written in first person, narrated by the king's spy, and plenty happens to keep you listening.
As I listened to it in audio format, I will add that the narrator was just okay. His voice was quite annoying. He spoke in a middle class English accent with some oddities, such as 'dawg' and 'sawft' for dog and soft. He sounded quite old for the character too.
I will definitely buy book two, The Mirror of Souls, as
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, mystery
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.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, fantasy
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.
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
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.
Marie Sexton
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, and I'm a bit annoyed at myself that it took me this long to dive in.
Tatiana Soldatova
Apr 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
I don't want to finish this book. Struggle with the writing style. Don't care about the caracters.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If The Name of the Rose included true sorcery in its pages, it might be the Spirit Lens. Certainly, Portier DuPlais is the spiritual kin of Eco's scientist investigator. Methodically detangling all the twists and turns of a plot worthy of comparison to a Victorian Hedgemaze. Just when you think you've found the way, another qrinkle is revealed. A fantastic first story into a world of magic, intrigue, and unknowable histories.
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Carol Berg's writing is as magical as her worlds. Complex characters, richly developed worlds and intricate plots are a hallmark of all her books. This one was no exception.
Mar 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Elise Weber
Jul 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
I am extremely disappointed in this book from a writer who is one of my favorites. It was sloppy, chaotic, inconstant, poorly written, hard to follow and pretty boring. If it had been the first book of Berg's I had read, I would consider her a mediocre writer at best and would never bother to read anything else of hers again. As it is, I know she is capable of much more, but if I'm to try again she'll have to put some effort into her next endeavor. I think she phoned this one in.

It lacked every
Verity Brown
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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,
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 3 Nov 20, 2014 01:30PM  
¿Por qué no una traducción al Español? 1 1 Oct 22, 2014 01:34PM  
Translation to Spanish, why not? 2 3 Jul 07, 2014 06:13PM  

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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

Other books in the series

Collegia Magica (3 books)
  • The Soul Mirror (Collegia Magica, #2)
  • The Daemon Prism (Collegia Magica, #3)

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