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Vincalis the Agitator    by Holly Lisle order for
Vincalis the Agitator
by Holly Lisle
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2003
Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Despite the odd title, which I found a bit off-putting, I was caught immediately by the plight of the main character. (Lisle has a real knack for engaging sympathy for her characters, as well as the ability to present a complex new world without fuss or cumbersome explanations.) Wraith is a starveling child attempting to steal food in a luxurious, upper-world market. To his bewilderment, he is caught - an amazing phenomenon, since no one ever notices Wraith. His zombie-like family and neighbours never seem to see him, and the magic that bars the upper world to his kind seems not to register his presence.

He escapes pursuit with the help of a youngster who belongs in this world of privilege and plenty. Solander is an ambitious student who sees Wraith's immunity to magic as an opportunity for spectacular research, which will earn him advancement in the Dragon councils. For this ambition he undertakes the risky task of hiding Wraith and Jess, the child Wraith brought with him out of the Warrens. Also sharing their secret is Solander's rebellious cousin Velyn. All risk death or exile if they are discovered. The Dragon sorcery that assures a world of luxury and beauty is reserved for a privileged group that does not include the Warreners. And the source of that magic lies at the centre of an ugly, deadly secret.

Lisle has created a fascinating world and an intriguing puzzle that kept me hooked to the last chapter. We meet numerous characters, many of whom are irretrievably caught in the seductive toils of the sorcery that runs their world. The author continues to follow the adventures of the four main characters and manages to keep numerous plot-lines clear. I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, perhaps because of a deus ex machina type of intervention (literally). The ending was shocking to me in the scope of the change that occurs.

However, as I reminded myself, Lisle is returning to a world a thousand years in the past of The Secret Texts, a trilogy comprising Diplomacy of Wolves, Vengeance of Dragons, and Courage of Falcons. She is bound by the history she has already created in those stories. And, as always, Lisle delivers an intriguing read in Vincalis the Agitator, full of excitement in a magical and dangerous world.

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