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Lens of the World by R. A. MacAvoy

Lens of the World (1990)

by R. A. MacAvoy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lens of the World (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Oh wow, what a book. I was reaching for a way to describe the feel of it, and I suppose the best one was 'Diana Wynne Jones meets Umberto Eco,' and yet not. There is the sense of a thoroughly sensible fantasy setting, not flashy but deep. Erudite things happen, there is learning and science (mindfulness!) and wisdom, and then, later, oh, yes, the wars and the intrigue and the occasional hint of the supernatural. Often dark, never grim, sometimes horrible, always told with a light touch that emphasises the narrators interests and perceptions, revealing character and world by omission or brusque understatement.

Nazhuret is raised in a military academy with no knowledge of his origins, as much a servant as a student, putting off the inevitable day when he must take service with a Duke or hit the road. On the eve of his final day, he comes oddly under the tutelage of the mysterious Powl, and an apprenticeship begins. Powl makes Nazhuret ready for the world, but is the world ready for Nazhuret? Sent out to find his own way, Nazhuret wanders and has =adventures and learns unpleasant lessons and has ambiguous and confusing encounters that culminate in an attempt to thwart an attack on the king.

It's a terrific tale, a bildungsroman and a fantasy classic that shows what you can do with a short tight tale and a little thought and learning about the world and about people. A new favourite. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Here is an example of a fully realized world and a rich first person voice. Nazhuret belongs to no one, sent early to Velonya's premier militiary school in Sordaling that is his home until he is eighteen when, to avoid being drafted into the guard of a duke he dislikes, he runs away and becomes the pupil of the mysterious Powl. In an ordinary fantasy, Nazhuret (known to some as Zhurrie) would be a handsome lad and Powl would be a clever magician. In fact Nazhuret is handsome, but he is clearly a "half-breed" - part child of Velonya's worst enemies and he is very short. Nor is Powl a magician. He considers himself a man of scientific methods and teaches Nazhuret how to observe, how to be still, how to fight, and how to grind lenses to make a living. Zhurrie thinks of himself as an optician and corrects people if they say he has magical abilities. In fact, there is no magic, only skills and knowledge acquired through hard work. This is a fully realized world, brings to mind the topography of eastern Europe, Hungary, Romania, (known to me only from reading and looking at pictures, mind you!). Life is hard and the beauty is often one that you appreciate because it is your homeland and it is familiar and thus lovable. I'm hooked, but not on fantastic surprises and weirdness, I'm hooked on Nazhuret and his quest to find his place in the world, and also his partner Arlin (lots of wonderful ambiguity there) and I like the king too, a good deal more rounded than kings often are. It's not a "fast" read. The four stars are leaving room to go higher. **** ( )
  sibyx | Oct 10, 2015 |
This reminded me of the much more recent The Name of the Wind, another novel that is set in a fantasy world and recounts how a figure of power and mystery grew into his current reputation. But, I enjoyed Lens of the World much more - it is more tightly plotted, with better control of narrative voice, and a lovely writing style. The main character is also more likable, once he has finished his training. He is far from perfect, but his impulses are good, sometimes despite his better judgment, and he has an unshakeable core of autonomy. The way the author handles sexuality and desire is also appealing - directly, yet without letting it dominate any aspect of the story. While this book is the first in a trilogy, it makes for a satisfying stand-alone read, and I may not get back to the later volumes for a while. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jul 21, 2014 |
3.5 Originally posted at FanLit

Nazhuret was an ugly half-breed orphan when he started life at an exclusive military school, but now he??s someone important. So important, in fact, that the king has asked him to write his autobiography. Who is this man who has fascinated a king, what is he now, and how did he come so far in the world?

Lens of the World, published in 1990, is the first book in R.A. MacAvoyƒ??s LENS OF THE WORLD trilogy. Itƒ??s a coming-of-age story which reminds me of several fantasy epics Iƒ??ve read, especially Ursula K. Le Guinƒ??s EARTHSEA series, Robin Hobbƒ??s FARSEER saga and, more recently, Patrick Rothfussƒ??s KINGKILLER CHRONICLE.

Those are some big names Iƒ??ve used as comparison. Can MacAvoy really stand up to that? Mostly yes. Nazhuret is not quite as likable as FitzChivalry Farseer and not quite as interesting as Kvothe, but heƒ??s an appealing hero, as are a couple of the other main characters such as Nazhuretƒ??s enigmatic teacher, Powl, who lives in a strange round building and teaches Nazhuret to sit still, think, speak several languages, dance, fight, and appreciate optics, linguistics and other academic subjects. Then thereƒ??s a girl named Charlin who Nazhuret thinks he loves, though heƒ??s not sure. (Sexuality is confusing to Nazhuret since he was raped by his schoolmasters when he was a boy.) And finally thereƒ??s Arlen, a thief who remembers Nazhuret from his school days, and the red-headed King whom Nazhuret meets later in the story and to whom we assume heƒ??s writing.

Plot-wise, Nazhuretƒ??s story is always interesting and I often found it absorbing, but I wouldnƒ??t say that it quite reaches the level of ƒ??exciting.ƒ? For nearly half of the book heƒ??s being educated before he sets off on his own and works odd jobs such as farm hand, janitor, and bouncer. He encounters bar fights, murderers, a wedding, a werewolf, a dragon, and makes friends with a dog. All this time, of course, weƒ??re aware that heƒ??s casually addressing the king as he writes his autobiography, so this makes us realize with anticipation that something important is going to happen. Toward the end we find out why his teacher is so interested in him, and learn that perhaps Nazhuret has a destiny. Other revelations about Powl and Arlen made me want to read on.

This doesnƒ??t sound too much different from many other coming-of-age fantasy novels Iƒ??ve read, but what makes Lens of the World stand out is R.A. MacAvoyƒ??s style, and this is why Iƒ??ve compared her to Hobb and Le Guin. Like those authors, MacAvoyƒ??s prose is both beautiful and succinct ƒ?? something that I truly admire but rarely experience.

I listened to Audible Frontierƒ??s audio version of Lens of the World which was narrated by Jeremy Arthur, who did a perfect job with voices and cadence. It was the lovely thoughtful prose and the excellent narration that really carried me through this story, letting me just sit back and enjoy a beautifully told tale. Iƒ??m looking forward to the next book, King of the Dead. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
ereader ebook
  romsfuulynn | Apr 28, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
R. A. MacAvoyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corben, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibbons, LeeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parkinson, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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You are the lens of the world: the lens through which the world may become aware of itself. The world, on the other hand, is the only lens in which you can see yourself. It is both lenses together that make vision.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380710161, Paperback)

Lens of the World is the story of a prodigious life. It recounts the coming of age of Nazhuret, an outcast and orphan who rises from his lowly estate as a ward of the Sordaling military school to become a mighty warrior, philosopher, and confidant of the King of Vestinglon. As he grows, the young man receives outlandish knowledge and is prepared for an entirely exceptional destiny far beyond the narrow confines of his kingdom. In Lens Of The World, master storyteller R.A. Macavoy spins a narrative web packed with nuances and mysteries, feverish dreams and unlikely rewards. "LENS OF THE WORLD IS A WORK OF SOARING IMAGINATION." - Bestselling author Morgan Llywelyn "THIS BOOK IS WORTH OWNING IN HARDCOVER AND PULLING OUT ON A REGULAR BASIS." - Locus Magazine "IT'S STYLE RIVETS ATTENTION, AND THE STORY IS ONE WHICH REMAINS IN THE MIND." - Andre Norton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:19 -0400)

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