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. Portier enlists the help of the queen's foppish brother Ilario and a hedge-mage, Dante, in his quest for answers.
This is basically the most boring, anti-climictic, unengaging book I have read in a long time. The world building is pretty good (Blood Wars! exposing the blood line sigil on your hand at every meeting! secret heirs!) but the plot is sooooooooooooo slow, and the characters haphazard. Even worse, the few bits of plot Berg does grant the reader are either buried and given no emphasis, or are so obvious that every reader knew it from page 1. It takes nearly 300 pages to discover that Ilario, who twitters comically about his hats, is secretly a dashing and courageous blade? FUCKING DUH. Or that Michel and mage Orviene are evil? ALSO duh.
It's hard to buy that Portier is an intelligent man--or even conscious--when he misses such incredibly obvious clues. And to add insult to injury, after slogging through ~500 pages of Portier stumbling upon clues and witnesses randomly blurting out the truth, there is no ending to the plot! Berg abruptly seems to have realized that her book is about to end, has an OFF SCREEN climactic trial, then drops a half dozen hamfisted clues and foreshadowing about Portier getting magic, Michel being just one cog in a larger conspiracy, and Dante supposedly going mad with a quest for power
Reading this book was an exercise in frustration. I do not recommend it, and I do not intend to read anything else by this author.