I didn’t realize this was the second book in a series but I still read it with great enjoyment (it does work as a stand-alone book quite well).
A young girl is summoned to the collegia to find her magical-studying sister has died in a violent explosion. Suddenly she is whisked away to the king’s city where her fate is to be decided, and gets caught up in a conspiracy of sorcerers to not only overthrow the temporal power of the king himself, but the very laws of nature and life and death.
After Anne arrives at court, she must deal with what she considers the “trivialities” of that position, and she seems to have few choices and a lot of anger. For this reason less seems to happen in the first 100 or so pages of her book than in Portier’s. However, by the end of the book she is revealed as a fierce young woman who is quite as capable as Portier at “solving” mysteries.
I put “solving” in quotation marks because the overarching theme of these books is that things are never what they seem. The events of the second book overturn many of the “truths” of the first book. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say any more.
Not knowing friend from foe, Anne applies her considerable courage and logical mind to the unraveling the plots around her. I quite liked Anne, and the many supporting characters and was agreeably surprised about the loyalties and identities of her allies, much as Anne is herself.
However, I wonder what my reaction would have been had I read the earlier installment, The Spirit Lens, in which several lay players are made known to the reader.
Someone who had read the previous book would know, for instance, that Portier was always to be trusted, but to Anne, he’s the Accuser who helped condemn her father as a traitor.
Somehow the combo of renaissance-ian courtly intrigue, evil sorcery, well-written mystery and suitably muted romance totally works for me. I loved the telepathic links and the description of the women involved.
It starts really interesting but half way through it starts flailing and it drowns. The rest of the book is the dead body floating on the waters of creativity. I read the first half in a day, the second half in about four as I kept picking up the book, reading, getting bored, putting it back down. It was a real struggle to finish it.
All in all, I still enjoyed it and plan to seek out and read both the first book, and its sequel.
PS: Wise Man’s Fear was waaaaaaay better