Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt

It's occasionally frustrating for me when I'm following a series that I truly enjoy, such as Modesitt's Imager Portfolio, and the author suddenly shifts focus to tell stories about an entirely different protagonist, perhaps in an entirely different time period, still within the arc of the world created by that author. I don't know if Modesitt has simply said all he has to say about Rhenn, about whom the latest installment was Imager's Intrigue, but the new hero of these tales is Quaeryt, a young scholar from what appears to be hundreds of years earlier in the Portfolio timeline.

Quaeryt, orphaned early and raised by scholars, has somehow risen to the position of semi-trusted advisor to the ruler of Telaryn, Bhayar. When Bhayar asks Quaeryt's advice on what to do about the restive province of Tilbor, he admits he doesn't know enough about the area to offer a course of action (rare quality in a political advisor), and so Lord Bhayar sends him off to Tilbor with credentials allowing him to investigate matters.

Quaeryt also has some talent at imaging, which he conceals from others at all times, as imagers have always been suspect and persecuted for their abilities. As the story progresses, he tries to figure out ways to use his imaging inconspicuously in combat situations, just to stay alive. Scholars are also not highly respected in most lands, and Quaeryt encounters some authorities in one of the ports where he is stranded briefly who have driven the scholars out of town after one of them taught the mayor's wife how to read, write, and do figures. With such dangerous knowledge, she discovered her husband was cooking the books, and trouble followed. Knowledge is a dangerous thing.

On the next leg of his voyage, Quaeryt is shipwrecked, attacked by reavers, and falls seriously ill for a time (shades of Paul the apostle), then is nursed back to health by a kindly older couple. He eventually arrives in Tilbor, where he first stays with the local scholars and finds that something is not quite kosher about their organization, the Ecoliae, and suspects that they may be closely linked to the northern rebels, providing them with intelligence and support.

After some adventures there, he travels to the Telaryn Palace and joins the staff of the princeps, Straesyr, and the military governor of the province, Rescalyn. He is put on a long leash, and begins to work to find out what is really going on with the area. He accompanies some of the officers and rankers on their patrols, and becomes respected among them for his quick thinking and bravery during ambushes and other attacks.

Eventually, he (and we) figure out what's at the bottom of the troubles in Tilbor, and enacts a sneaky, underhanded solution to the problem.

Quaeryt should be a fun new protagonist in the Imager Portfolio, though I still miss Rhenn. Hopefully, Modesitt will shed some light on the origins of the Collegium (where Imagers study in the earlier books), and some of the other sociopolitical aspects of his world along the way.


Fantasy Nibbles said...

I'm ashamed to admit I've never read any L.E Modesitt. I'm compiling a list of must-reads for 2010 though, is there one you'd recommend to start with?

Jon said...

Nibbles, probably the easiest one to start with is Imager, first in the portfolio. Another beginning to a fantasy series is The Soprano Sorceress, and his Recluce saga begins with The Magic of Recluce.

Fantasy Nibbles said...

Thank you! I've had a look and I think The Magic of Recluce is the one for me :)