Vincalis the Agitator by Holly Lisle is the prequel to The Secret Texts trilogy, consisting of Diplomacy of Wolves, Vengeance of Dragons and Courage of Falcons. It’s been a while since I read the trilogy, but I remember I enjoyed it, and Vincalis the Agitator had been on my TBR list for a while.
Two boys from very different backgrounds meet and become friends. Unbeknown to them, their friendship will change the very world they inhabit, which can be felt even 1000 years in the future. Their names? Wraith and Solander. One is immune to magic, and one has the ambition to become the ruling authority on magic. Together they set forth to do good, but trigger something much bigger than themselves.
This book was an entertaining one; I was never forcing myself to read it, but there was something missing for me. Maybe it felt like that because the writing is a bit aloof, distant. Although we are always in the heads of the characters, good and bad, we aren’t in their hearts. We understand their feelings, but don’t feel their feelings. Still, it didn’t keep me from reading it.
Wraith and Solander are both compelling characters, and I like how Holly never forgets how they met and why Solander decides to let Wraith into his life. He has a use for him, and even when they forge their strong bond, that is always in the background. Solander is always studying Wraith, and Wraith lets him. Wraith has lofty dreams of freeing the Warreners, who are being kept as literal fuel for the magic of the Dragons. The ruling class of the Empire, to which Solander and egotistical Luercas both belong. Even when they were growing apart, I could still imagine them coming through for each other. And they did, in more ways than one.
Jess was….well…at first I disliked her infatuation with Wraith a lot. I mean, I never came around to her LOVE for him, but she did try, at least when she was older, to be a good friend to him. And I like that she had a period of growth, that she came to see his dream of saving the Warreners as not just a pipe dream, but a necessity. Velyn on the other hand, man. I liked her at first, but as soon as she showed more and more of her real self, I couldn’t help but want her to disappear of the stage. Not dying or something like that, because I did feel some empathy for her plight – suffering abuse in a marriage you can’t escape – but just going into hiding for all eternity or something. She got on my nerves the way she just kept blaming Wraith for all the bad things in her life when it’s literally all her own damn fault.
The Hars Empire was a good reflection of what would happen when society decides that comfort and security are more important than the lives of “undesirables”. To use not just innocent people’s bodies, but also their souls, to power magic to keep your subjects’ lives comfortable? It evoked the painful history of our world, in which certain peoples were seen as lesser, as subhuman, as not worthy of life itself. Hell, there are still people who believe that about others who don’t look, sound or think like them.
This prequel can be read as a standalone; you need no previous knowledge of The Secret Texts trilogy. But because I missed a certain spark, I don’t rate this book as highly as I might’ve otherwise. There were times where I almost didn’t dare read on, because I didn’t think there was going to be a good ending, but it kept calling me back. So it’s not a bad book. Just not as good as I hoped it would be. Either way, it was still an entertaining read.