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The Charmed Sphere    by Catherine Asaro order for
Charmed Sphere
by Catherine Asaro
Order:  USA  Can
Luna, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Chime is brought from her humble background in Jacob's Vale to the royal courts of Aronsdale to begin her training as a mage. Her promising untapped powers make her the perfect wife for Prince Muller, heir to the throne. But Chime has difficulty controlling and directing her powers and finds herself further distracted by the attentions of her future husband, the handsome, yet 'overdressed' and rather arrogant Muller. Though unhappy about his pending marriage, Muller soon finds in Chime something of a soul mate. They eventually agree they're well suited, damaged powers and all. But when Iris, another newly discovered mage, comes to court to begin her training, it becomes evident that she is the more powerful. Now Chime and Muller cannot marry, for the future King must wed the strongest mage.

Iris shocks the court when she announces that the true King (who disappeared long since) still lives. Troops are dispatched and within days young Jared is returned to his home and his rightful place as heir to the throne. But can a young man who's lived as a hermit, who cannot see or speak and is quite evidently mad, ever become King? While wrestling with this monumental dilemma, Muller and his councilors discover that the neighboring King (long an enemy of Aronsdale) plans an invasion, and is using a mysterious dark mage to clear his path to victory. The dark mage seeks to control Chime and take her as his own as payment for his services. Chime is determined to deny him with every breath in her body, yet also to use him and what he knows about the enemy to save Aronsdale. Will she and her fellow untried mages, Muller and Iris, and most of all, the surprisingly powerful Jared, manage to thwart the invasion?

Catherine Asaro's mage world, with powers that only a select few possess, makes an interesting concept. Character wise though, the story is somewhat lacking, particularly in the case of Muller (his self-absorption and penchant for clothing became annoying) and Chime. Both spend too much time second guessing themselves or internalizing over their inability to control their powers. And Iris is almost ethereal throughout the story, as if Asaro included her merely as a fulcrum to locate the lost and confused Jared. But The Charmed Sphere does come to a satisfying conclusion once the four mages discover that their greatest strength lies in working together, combining their powers to defeat the enemy.

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