Reading level: Adult
Size: 480 pages
Publisher: Roc Trade
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in Collegia Magica series
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 2/5 stars
Let me start by saying I really enjoy Carol Berg as a writer. I absolutely loved her Rai Kirah series and also loved the Lighthouse Duet. But, for some reason, I had a very difficult time with this book. I didn’t care about the plot, did not like the characters, and struggled through each page.
This book is about Portier de Savin-Duplais; a failed magical student who is called upon to help solve the mystery of an attempted assassination of the king. Joining him in this investigation are a foppish Noble named Ilario de Sylvae and brilliant (but grumpy) sorceror named Dante.
The premise sounded excellent and I really did enjoy Berg’s intricate descriptions of the surroundings and the intricate magic system. I also enjoyed that this book is written in at a higher literary level. That being said I only read to page 100 and had a lot of problems even getting that far into this book.
I was not drawn into the mystery to find out who wanted to assassinate the King. The King was not likable, and to be honest, I really didn’t care if someone assassinated him or not. He doesn’t seem to do that good of a job running the kingdom, so I just didn’t care. The mystery behind the Spirit Lens was intriguing but not intriguing enough to keep me hooked on the story.
I also did not enjoy the characters. Portier is so self-deprecating and spineless that I was kind of hoping for something (anything) to happen to him; he just never stands up for himself and bumbles through the book. Ilario is over stereo-typed as a pompous noble fop, I think he was supposed to add humor to the story, but for me he feel flat. Dante is the only character that redeems this book; the portion of the book where he was introduced into the story was entracing, but then he is not the focus anymore and I lost interest again.
This book is very long-winded. I loved beautiful descriptions, but that was taken to the extreme in this book. I found myself skipping full paragraphs and was still able to follow the story fine. Then I would stop back-up and reread what I had skipped just to confirm I hadn’t missed anything (I hadn’t). Around the point where I stopped more and more Frenchlike noble names are being thrown at the reader. All these names refer to characters that I have no frame of reference for, can’t relate to, and can’t remember.
In the end I just lost patience with it all. I was having a lot of trouble keeping my eyes open to read more than a page or two at a time. I know Berg’s books are set up very deliberately, but for some reason I just can’t handle it with this one. I really wasn’t enjoying it and I have a ton of other books to read so I stopped.
Overall this book just was not my thing; which is not to say it was poorly written…at times the writing was quite beautiful. I was just not drawn into the plot, did not like the characters, and thought the pacing was way too slow. If you are into deliberately paced fantasy mysteries this may be the book for you. If you like your plot a bit more frantic with deep characterization I would look elsewhere. If you are interested in reading books by Berg I would start with the Rai Kirah series; that characters and plot were much more engaging.