Lens of the World – R.A. MacAvoy

Lens of the World


Nazhuret, ugly boy of uncertain parentage, has been in Sordaling School for as long as he can remember. But eventually he must leave, and on the eve of his departure, a distant, brutal teacher takes him in to teach him things for which he has no use.


Sometimes, you go back to a much-loved book and find it’s just not as good as you recall, no matter how you try to keep that golden haze of memory wrapped around it. Much less frequently, as in this case, you go back to a well-regarded book and find out just how much better it is than you remember.

I came to R. A. MacAvoy via the Damiano trilogy, which struck as technically competent, but dry, with a setting I found uninteresting, and too much religion for my taste. I felt much the same about Tea With the Black Dragon and its sequel, Twisting the Rope. Yet, thanks to MacAvoy’s technical skill, I kept on, and I was amply rewarded with Lens of the World.

I remember being struck by Lens – and, to a lesser extent, its sequels – but, re-reading it now, I’m not sure I got as much out of it as I should have. Despite an unprepossessing format – no chapters, a long, nominally epistolary format, and little really speculative about it – this is a masterful piece of work. Nazhuret’s character is so engaging, MacAvoy’s prose so precise, that the story draws you in regardless, and repays in full. It has just the right balance of subtlety and confidence in the reader, of emotion and exposition. I liked it a lot the first time around. This time, I loved it.

For once, this is a book deserving all the accolades from authors and critics printed in the front and back. And yet, after this trilogy, MacAvoy seemed to disappear. I see now in ISFdb that she had a 2011 title I’ll have to look up. There should be more.

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