Friday, August 27, 2010
Imager's Intrigue by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Modesitt has, over the years, delivered a strong and steady performance with his novels. Up until the Recluce saga got completely out of hand, I kept up with it, but I'm probably a dozen books behind now. In the Imager Portfolio series, he's come up with an interesting blend of a world at the beginning of its industrial revolution, yet still possessed of magic in the agency of the Collegium, a group of people called Imagers. The Imagers are people who can use their minds and the energy of the world around them to visualize and create matter - more or less out of thin air.
The hero of this saga is Rhenn, a young imager who has attained high status due to his ability rather rapidly. Imager's Intrigue, third in the series, takes place about three years after Imager's Challenge. Rhenn and his wife, Seliora, now have a three-year-old daughter, Diestrya whom they both dote on, and both her charm and her challenges are matter of factly laid bare throughout the book. Modesitt (so far) doesn't take the cheap shot of putting Diestrya into danger, and forcing Rhenn to act precipitously, as some other authors might. Rhenn can be precipitous enough just on his own!
Rhenn is serving as a captain of the third district of the city patrollers, as he did in the previous novel, and his area is a bit more peaceful than the rest of the city, due to his unorthodox style of dealing with the gangs, or taudis, in the district. But someone is introducing a stronger strain of an addictive herb called elveweed into the city, and it's causing an increased number of overdoses among its users, so Rhenn begins to investigate things to try and find out who is importing it, and why.
At the same time, there is a sudden outbreak of sabotage and suspicious explosions in the manufacturing facilities and grain storage areas of the city, and Rhenn suspects that the Ferrans, who are in an undeclared war with his country, Solidar, are to blame somehow. When a mortar attack on the Collegium kills the head of the organization and its head of security, Rhenn's mentor, Rhenn is promoted and must take responsibility for finding the killers.
The entire book proceeds slowly, methodically, and in a matter of fact tone from setup to resolution. It's vintage Modesitt, really. One little thing that's irritating, though, is his habit of having Rhenn, in the middle of a conversation, think to himself, "I suddenly understood why it was that...." and then not tell us what he suddenly understood. We have to wait until sometime later in the book, when Rhenn acts on his conclusions, to deduce what he had. Modesitt also likes to just leave some little mysteries unresolved, even when the book is resolved, which is really more in accordance with reality than what passes for mysteries and their solutions these days.
If you haven't read any of this series, get started with Imager, and read them all. You won't be sorry.