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    Warner Books, March 2002

    Wraith is born in the warrens, a strange halfway land where people barely live, unaware of their surroundings. When he escapes, he finds nearby cities filled with magic, art, and beautiful people. Yet a terrible secret sustains the magic of these cities--their spells depend on and consume the lives of those in the warrens--and the demands of the magic grow ever stronger. Wraith swears to end this oppression, to somehow change the system that holds so many in bondage for the joy of others.

    As an adult, Wraith becomes an author and producer of plays that show the dangers of magic in an attempt to demonstrate the folly of the civilization he both admires and hates. Yet no society can survive for hundreds of years without its defenses. Wraith's growing popularity breeds suspicion against him. When the secret police swoop down, none of Wraith's defenses appear effective against such overwhelming force.

    Author Holly Lisle (see all reviews of novels by this author) has created a compelling magic system and culture of beauty, cruelty and reckless disregard for others. Although interesting, VINCALIS THE AGITATOR falls short in several key respects. Most importantly, it fails to grab the reader at an emotional level. Perhaps the mages are simply too evil to be credible. Too, Wraith's plot is so simplistic that it is difficult to believe that a halfway effective police force, let alone magic-dealing secret spies, wouldn't have shut it down in days.

    Lisle's writing shows moments of inspiration, mixed with long narrative pages and with subplots (e.g., Faregan's plans to add Jess to his victim collection) that confuse without adding to the main narative or to the emotional intensity of the novel.

    Two Stars

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