Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Series: Imager Portfolio, #6
Length: 512 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 22, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
The sequel to the New York Times bestselling Princeps follows magical hero Quaeryt as he leads history’s first Imager fighting force into war. Given the rank of subcommander by his wife’s brother, Lord Bhayar, the ruler of Telaryn, Quaeryt joins an invading army into the hostile land of Bovaria, in retaliation for Bovaria’s attempted annexation of Telaryn. But Quaeryt has his own agenda in doing Bhayar’s bidding: to legitimize Imagers in the hearts and minds of all men, by demonstrating their value as heroes as he leads his battalion into one costly battle after another.
Making matters worse, court intrigues pursue Quaeryt even to the front lines of the conflict, as the Imager’s enemies continue to plot against him.
Imager’s Battalion does something amazing. It manages to embody that utter cliche of military campaigning–“hurry up and wait”, and make it compelling reading at the same time.
All because Quaeryt is one of those characters who has a mind that the reader is more than willing to live in for hours at a time. He is a joy to follow. Even as merely a subcommander in his brother-in-law’s army, Quaeryt’s internal life fascinates, whether or not his external world carries a lot of action.
In Quaeryt’s earlier adventures, Scholar and especially Princeps, Modesitt managed to make even being a bureaucrat interesting. But in Imager’s Battalion, Quaeryt is on the road in the midst of an an invading army.
Quaeryt’s brother-in-law, Bhayar, is invading the kingdom of Rex Kharst. Bhayar is returning the favor, after Kharst invaded Bhayar’s country of Telaryn.
But Bhayar has bigger dreams. His plan is to unite all of Lydar. The entire continent. He dreams of empire. He married the orphan scholar Quaeryt to his sister Vaelora because he believed that Quaeryt’s intelligence and talent would be of use to him in his plans.
Quaeryt knows all of this, but he has plans of his own. Scholars are not respected in Telaryn. He hopes that by assisting Bhayar, he can raise their status. But Quaeryt is more. he is also an Imager, a magic user. His plan is to make Imagers indispensible to the would-be emperor.
About Vaelora–she is the love of his life. Marrying her was the best thing that ever happened to Quaeryt. And vice-versa. Even if she also provides Bhayar with another lever that he can wield against the increasingly powerful Imager.
But Bhayar knows that Quaeryt can only achieve his goals if Bhayar achieves his. And that there are some powerful military leaders who have a vested interest in keeping Bhayar weak and making sure that Quaeryt dies in the campaign.
The question is, who is the traitor? And will Quaeryt burn himself out before that traitor, or worse, traitors, can be uncovered?
Escape Rating A: Quaeryt is a compelling character to watch. He does seem just a bit too good to be true, but that’s part of what makes him so fascinating. He doesn’t think he’s all that special. He’s constantly trying to get people not to think so highly of him. He’s concerned about too many people pinning their hopes on him, and being as disappointed in him as he frequently is in himself.
A story about day-to-day life in a military campaign should be dull. But Imager’s Battalion so very much is not. The story was absorbing because we’re looking at the campaign through Quaeryt’s eyes, and he never stops thinking about everything that he sees. It’s not just a military campaign to him. It’s a campaign to change the world, and every incident is factored into what he can learn from it.
Quaeryt is still learning how to be an officer. He’s also learning how to teach other Imagers how to be Imagers, and it’s very much a trial and error process. Some days that’s mostly error. And he’s always furthering his own campaign, mostly from very behind the scenes, of how to improve conditions for Scholars and Imagers. His goals are very long term.
And he has to keep himself, and Bhayar, alive long enough to make it all happen. It’s a very tall order.
If you enjoy epic fantasy, this series is excellent. Imager is the place to start. You won’t be sorry.
I can’t wait for the next book in this series, Antiagon Fire, due in May. I’m expecting fantastic things!