Review: Endgames by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Review: Endgames by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.Endgames (Imager Portfolio #12) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #12
Pages: 576
Published by Tor Books on February 5, 2019
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Endgames is the twelfth novel in L. E. Modesitt, Jr's, New York Times bestselling epic fantasy series the Imager Portfolio, and the third book in the story arc that began with Treachery's Tools and Assassin's Price.

Solidar is in chaos.

Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing.

But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.

The Imager Portfolio#1 Imager / #2 Imager's Challenge / #3 Imager's Intrigue / #4 Scholar / #5 Princeps / #6 Imager's Battalion / #7 Antiagon Fire / #8 Rex Regis / #9 Madness in Solidar / #10 Treachery's Tools / #11 Assassin's Price / #12 Endgames

Other series by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.The Saga of RecluceThe Corean ChroniclesThe Spellsong CycleThe Ghost BooksThe Ecolitan Matter

My Review:

There’s a saying about war being diplomacy by other means. Endgames feels like a story about politics being civil war by other means. Alternatively, one could extend the metaphor that Lois McMaster Bujold proposed of SF as fantasy of political agency and expand that to speculative fiction, which includes fantasy, as, well, fantasy of political agency. Because most of the Imager Portfolio in general, and this book in particular, is certainly all about the politics.

However, unlike the traditional epic fantasy, neither this book nor this series focuses on the adventures of a “chosened one”. Instead, the protagonists of this series often feel, particularly from their own perspectives, more like the “stuck one”. The person who finds themselves the linchpin of epic events they did not plan on. And they would generally rather that the cup had passed to someone else – at least until they decide that whoever might have been stuck into their position instead would have done even worse.

The events in Endgames directly follow the events in the previous book, Assassin’s Price. There was an assassin in that book, and the person who was assassinated was the Rex. Now his oldest son, Charyn, is Rex, trying to stay alive in the midst of the continuing chaos.

Unlike the previous heroes in this series, Charyn did expect to be in the position he now occupies. Someday. Eventually. Just not quite so soon, or in the midst of quite so big a crisis. As the saying goes, “the king is dead, long live the king.” But when you’re the second king in that phrase, and not the first one, if you love your father – and Charyn did – you hope that when the first king dies it occurs peacefully, in his bed, after a long and fruitful life. Not in his prime, at the hands of an assassin.

An assassin who is now gunning for you. And who may be much closer than you’d like to think.

So Charyn is busy in this book. First, he is shoring up his internal defenses, trying to stay one step ahead of whoever is trying to kill him. Second, he is attempting to guide his country into the future. A future that he alone envisions, and one that will be much different from its past.

Not that the future won’t come whether Charyn guides things or not, but it’s a question of what that future will be. The High Holders, who are the hereditary aristocracy and the major landholders, want the future to look like the past. A past where they were on top of the heap and could grind anyone they wanted under their heel.

But Solidar is changing. The Factors, who are the business class, are amassing greater and greater power – mostly by getting richer and richer. But it’s happening because Solidar is going through its version of an industrial revolution and power is flowing towards them and away from the aristocracy – as occurred in Great Britain during its Industrial Revolution.

Charyn recognizes this shift in the tide, while at the same time seeing the need to regulate some business practices for “the greater good” – a greater good that is explicitly NOT the good of the aristocracy, but the good of Solidar as a whole.

He’s aiming toward a compromise that serves everyone. If he lives long enough to bring it to fruition. If he survives the dagger aimed at his heart from much, much closer than he imagined.

Escape Reading A: I read this in a day. All 576 pages of it. And pretty much immediately upon receipt four long months ago. I’ll also confess that I had to wipe away a tear at the end. The only reason I’m not grading it higher is that it would be impossible for a new reader to get into the series at this point. As the title implies, this is an endpoint for the series. Possibly THE endpoint, but when asked the author said that he was still deciding. I hope he decides in favor of MORE IMAGERS!

But Endgames is certainly the ending of this middle sequence of the series. Interested readers can begin the Imager Portfolio at one of three places. Either the first published book of the series, Imager, the first book of the internal chronology of the series in Scholar, or the first book of this subseries, Madness in Solidar, which is the middle sequence in the internal chronology.

Endgames is a very political story. That’s true for much of this series, but particularly this subseries in general and this book in it in particular. Charyn is caught between a rock and several hard, sharp and pointy places. We see the story from inside his head, so we understand just where he’s coming from and just how difficult a position he is in at all times.

Everyone has an agenda. Including, admittedly, Charyn himself. But each of the factions that Charyn has to juggle has an agenda that benefits them alone, where Charyn’s agenda is a sometimes desperate attempt to do what’s best for everyone. Or at least what is a reasonable compromise for everyone.

Most of the factions do not want to compromise and their feet will have to be held to the fire – at least metaphorically – in order to make that happen. Charyn is fortunate that the imagers are on his side and perfectly capable of providing that fire – literally if necessary.

The contrast between events as directed by Charyn and current events in the US is also a stark one. As the person at the top of the pyramid Charyn could arrange the situation to benefit himself and his allies only. The laws of the time allow that possibility. But it is not good governance. The best course involves compromises between a lot of people whose interests do not seem to coincide. That he manages to make it happen in spite of each faction’s self-interest is a joy to watch – even though the personal cost is incredibly high.

If you like epic fantasy with lots of politics, this series could be your jam. It certainly is mine!

Review: Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Review: Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.Imager (Imager Portfolio, #1) by L.E. Modesitt Jr., William Dufris
Format: audiobook
Source: purchased from Audible
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #1
Pages: 432
Published by Tantor Media on April 13, 2009
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Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L'Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

Rhenn is forced to leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep) and because they are both feared and vulnerable, imagers must live separately from the rest of society. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the "truths" he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life. He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and he begins to learn to do magic in secret. Imager is the innovative and enchanting opening of an involving new fantasy story.

My Review:

This was a re-read for me. I first read Imager when it originally came out in 2009 because the cataloger in the next office was cataloging it and said it looked good. He was right. In fact, he was so right that I continued to read the series over the next decade. I finished the current final book in the series, Endgames, last month, and just couldn’t let this world go.

I hope I don’t have to, but the jury is still out on that.

The Imager Portfolio was written in a different order than the events take place in the created world of Terahnar. In the internal chronology, Scholar is first and Imager’s Intrigue is last. As the stories were written, Imager is first and Endgames is last. The internal chronology has the events of the, let’s call it the Quaeryt Quintet, first, the Alastar/Charyn Quartet second and the Rhenn Trilogy third – even though Rhenn’s story was the first one written.

I found myself really curious to see if the circle closed, if the events that occurred in Quaeryt’s, Alastar’s and Charyn’s stories actually led to the situation that Rhenn finds himself in at the beginning of Imager.

Also I remembered the original trilogy as a damn good story, and wondered if that would be true on a re-read. Actually a re-listen, as this time I got the unabridged audio.

There are themes that occur in all three of the subseries. I remembered Rhenn as a young man who had already planned his life, and was executing that plan, when fate intervened and he discovered that he had imaging talent.

I’ve invoked Rhenn’s memory often over the years, because his story is an interesting variation on the coming-of-age theme that so often permeates epic fantasy. Neither Rhenn, nor the author’s other heroes in this series, come of age during their stories. They are already adults, albeit generally in their 20s.

Instead, these are coming-into-power stories, where the protagonists have to adjust life plans that they have not only already made but have already begun working towards. They find themselves in unanticipated situations and things go sideways. They have to adjust and change to survive.

Or they won’t.

Within the opening chapters of Imager, I was both pleased to learn that the earlier history of Terahnar, and the country of Solidar, was anticipated from the beginning. Rhenn tours the Council Chateau with his father, and sees portraits of both Rex Regis, the man who becomes Rex in the Quaeryt Quintet, and Rex Defou, the Rex who is overthrown in Madness in Solidar. He also eyes a bust of Rex Charyn, the last Rex, whose exploits are completed in Endgames.

I’ll admit this worries me a lot about the possibility for further crises in the history of this place to be explored. Because the circle does seem to close and the loose ends do seem to get wrapped up.

I can still hope.

On re-listening to the story, I discovered that while I had lost most of the details of the story over the years, the outline was still clear. And still wonderful to read – or have read to me.

While at times Rhenn feels a bit too good to be true, he is also an intelligent and likeable hero. We do see more of his early years than I remembered, but the story really kicks into high gear when Rhenn is in his mid-20s, at the point where he is forced to give up his dreams of becoming a master portraturist and crosses the Bridge of Hopes to Imagisle.

From there, the story is off to the races, almost surprisingly so for a story that goes into a great deal of detail about Rhenn’s training as an imager. If you enjoy books that cover intensive training periods, this one is a treat.

Because Rhenn is not just learning to become an imager, he’s learning to become a spy and assassin and whatever else the College of Imagers needs him to become to keep the College, and the country of Solidar that defends it and that it defends, safe.

If he can manage to survive all the assassination attempts on his own life, that is.

Escape Rating A: This was as good as I remembered it. The story spends a bit more time than I recalled on Rhenn’s early years as a journeyman portraturist, which are necessary but not nearly as interesting (or potentially deadly) as his life rising through the imager ranks while trying not to end up dead.

One of the themes that has carried forward through the entire series is just how important the female characters are to the survival and success of the male protagonist. Seliora, like the life-partners of the heroes of the other stories, is Rhenn’s equal – and he recognizes that.

On the flip side, one of the things that grates more than I remembered is the negative attitude that Rhenn’s mother in particular displays towards everyone of Pharsi origin, like Seliora. Her constant stream of prejudice wears on the reader’s ears every bit as much as it does Rhenn’s.

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.As much as I wanted to slap his mother silly, it’s Rhenn’s story that I came to see. Or rather hear. It does feel like it fits in its proper place in this history, and follows very well after finishing Endgames.

Anyone who loves epic fantasy and has not indulged in the Imager Portfolio could happily start here, as I did in 2009. Scholar would make an equally fine start, at the beginning of the internal history.

Wherever you begin, there’s a LOT to love in this series, If you have not yet begun, I envy you the journey.

Review: Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt Jr + Author Q&A + Giveaway

Review: Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt Jr + Author Q&A + GiveawayAssassin's Price (Imager Portfolio, #11) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Imager Portfolio #11
Pages: 512
on July 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Assassin's Price is the eleventh book in the bestselling, epic fantasy series the Imager Portfolio by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. and the third book in a story arc which began with Madness in Solidar and Treachery's Tools.
Six years have passed since the failed uprising of the High Holders, and the man behind the conspiracy is where the rex and Maitre Alastar can keep an eye on him.
Charyn has come of age and desperately wants to learn more so he can become an effective rex after his father but he s kept at a distance by the rex. So Charyn sets out to educate himself circumspectly.
When Jarolian privateers disrupt Solidar s shipping, someone attempts to kill Charyn s younger brother as an act of protest. Threatening notes following in the wake of acts of violence against the rex and his family, demanding action build more ships or expect someone to die.
The Imager Portfolio#1 Imager / #2 Imager s Challenge / #3 Imager s Intrigue / #4 Scholar / #5 Princeps / #6 Imager s Battalion / #7 Antiagon Fire / #8 Rex Regis / #9 Madness in Solidar / #10 Treachery s Tools / #11 Assassin s Price (forthcoming)
Other series by this author: The Saga of RecluceThe Corean ChroniclesThe Spellsong CycleThe Ghost BooksThe Ecolitan Matter
"

My Review:

After two book failures, I gave into temptation and picked up Assassin’s Price about a month before I’m scheduled to review it. And I’m very glad I did. Just like all of the books in the Imager Portfolio (starting points are Imager, Scholar or Madness in Solidar) this one sucked me in and didn’t let go until the very end.

And now, as usual, I’m stuck waiting a year until the next one comes out. Because this story definitely isn’t over. Thank goodness.

Assassin’s Price takes place six years after the equally marvelous Treachery’s Tools, but this entry in the series switches perspectives, and that’s part of what makes it work so well.

At the end of Treachery’s Tools, Maitre Alastar had decisively ended the threat to the Collegium and to the rule of Rex Lorien. But six years is a long time, especially in politics, and people forget. Sometimes willfully.

But this isn’t Alastar’s story. Nor is it Rex Lorien’s. Just as with all of the previous books in this series, this is a story about coming into power, and specifically about the coming into power of someone who has already come of age.

Rex Lorien’s oldest son Charyn will be Rex someday, but that day is not supposed to be yet. He’s a young man in waiting for an event that he hopes will not come soon, because they only way he becomes Rex is when his father dies. And in spite of Rex Lorien’s authoritarian grip on the Regial household, he is doing the very best he can in surprisingly limited circumstances, and he really does love his family – and vice versa. This just isn’t a family where those emotions get expressed all that often.

But Charyn is old enough that playing the self-indulgent and over-indulged prince has begun to pall. He needs purpose. And as much as he doesn’t want to be Rex anytime soon, he is tired of being left out of all decisions and barred from any information about the state of the kingdom he will someday inherit.

So he starts cultivating his own sources, and in a direction from which his somewhat paranoid father is unlikely to feel threatened. And he hopes to learn things that seem to be outside the grasp of entirely too many people. One of the realities of life in Solidar is that the world is changing, not that that isn’t true everywhere all the time. But Charyn lives at a time when the power of the nobility, the major landholders, is slowly fading, while the power of the factors, the merchants and business interests, is very much on the rise.

Charyn gets himself a seat on the Solidaran equivalent of the Mercantile Exchange. It gives him the perfect opportunity to learn what factors do, and what they don’t. This knowledge becomes critical when an anonymous assassin begins threatening the Regial family and their holdings in protest of the Rex’ slow build up of a naval fleet to protect shipping interests. The anonymous assassin represents himself (herself, itself) as being one of the factors.

But as the outer tendrils of the plot come to light, it becomes clear that whoever or whatever is behind the threats has been planning their campaign for months if not years – and that they have sources within the Regial palace itself.

The Rex is dead, long live the Rex. Suddenly Charyn is the one on the very hot Regial seat, trying to work with councilors and advisers who seem to be certain that they don’t have to pay any attention to what he says or does, because they believe he’s not going to live all that long.

Charyn races to uncover the plot by any means necessary, before it takes his life and plunges his country into chaos.

Escape Rating A-: The first quarter of this book, while interesting, was not the stuff of high drama. In the beginning, we see Charyn learning, trying to discover a purpose and a way of keeping himself intellectually engaged. Also his father, Rex Lorien, doesn’t exactly show himself in the best light. He’s paranoid and very authoritarian in ways that grate. But like the old joke, you’re not paranoid if someone really is out to get you, and someone really was out to get him. It turns out that he’s not a bad man, just frustrated and overwhelmed. And then dead.

The pace really picks up when Charyn unexpectedly becomes Rex. Once he takes center stage, the story clips along at breakneck pace. Although relatively little time elapses, Charyn is under siege and under threat from the moment he becomes Rex. His realization that his councilors don’t care what concessions they grant him is because they are all certain he will be assassinated in short order is chilling.

And yet, he builds allies and keeps trying, not necessarily to win them over to his side, but to convince them that he’s going to live more than long enough for being on his side to matter. It’s an uphill battle, but a fascinating one.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrAlthough this is part of the Imager Portfolio, the imagers themselves do not feature greatly in it. In this story, the imagers are doing what their founder, Quaeryt envisioned, not being a power themselves but keeping the balance between all the factions, between the Rex, the high holders and the factors. And as Quaeryt envisioned and Alastar exemplified, the way they do that best is by keeping good Rexes alive and functioning.

But speaking of Quaeryt (and I believe that the character pictured on the cover of Rex Regis IS Quaeryt and not the Rex), the hero of the middle five books in this series from Scholar to Rex Regis, it was good to hear him spoken of again, and to have his legacy recognized. Tying this present story back to some of his (and his redoubtable wife Vaelora’s) actions was a very nice touch and a way of setting this piece of the story into proper sequence. For readers who start with Madness in Solidar, knowing who Quaeryt was and what he did isn’t necessary to enjoy this part of the story, but the books are marvelous for anyone who loves politically charged epic fantasy.

This is a series that, as a whole, manages to do an excellent job of making political machinations endlessly fascinating. In this world, politics is always war conducted by other means, and it’s always a race to see if the hero, in this case Charyn, can manage to outmaneuver his enemies before that always impending war breaks out.

But speaking of the war, once things get settled within Solidar, it looks like Charyn will have some external enemies to deal with. And I can hardly wait.

Quick Q&A with author L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Marlene: So often, epic fantasy is the realm of coming of age stories, where the destined hero or heroine comes of age and into their destiny during the course of the story. The Imager Portfolio is different in that regard. None of the heroes, not Rhenn, not Quaeryt, certainly not Alastar or even Charyn feel like destined heroes. They’re just the right person at the right time. And, this part has always fascinated me, these are explicitly not coming of age stories. All the heroes are adults at the beginning of their adventures. Possibly relatively young adults, but not “young adults” as the term is generally meant. They are grown ups who already have a life mapped out for themselves when their circumstances change and they are suddenly thrust into power they did not expect. So the stories are coming into power stories that are explicitly not coming of age stories. How did that come about? Was that a conscious decision, or did things just evolve that way over the course of the series? 

Lee: I’d have to say that the first three books about Rhenn came about in the way they did as a combination of autobiographical factors and an underlying philosophy/concern of mine, in that I’m not much of a believer in “destiny from birth.” That’s because my own life, and the lives of many other people I’ve known, took radically different paths from what anyone could have predicted. When I was truly a young adult, I very much wanted to be painter and a poet. I even had a painting place in a small scholastic art competition, but the plain fact is that while I have excellent gross motor control, my fine motor control is a bit shaky, perhaps from a mild case of polio as a child, and I realized that my artistic conceptions were far beyond my physical capabilities. Then there was the fact that when I graduated from college, my family-endorsed semi-career plan, similar in a way to what Rhenn’s family planned for him, to go to law school and join my father’s law firm, ran into an immediate and absolute roadblock. There was a war in Vietnam in progress, and rather than let the government decide my fate, I went through Navy OCS and emerged a very green ensign, assigned to small amphibious craft, a duty I detested so much that I volunteered for flight training in the middle of a war, a rash decision definitely not calculated to maximize survival. In short, I never got back to the “family plan” because my Navy experience as a search and rescue pilot made me realize several things, but especially that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Yet later on, ironically, in my nearly twenty years in Washington, virtually all the political and consulting jobs I held were the type of positions usually held by lawyers. That might be one reason why I’m a great believer in irony.

All of those experiences also conveyed to me the fact that no sane person ever sets out to be a hero, but that some people do amazing deeds, when required by their place in life and their background. There’s definitely some of me in each of the main protagonists in the Imager Portfolio. So… the summary of this long answer is that the structure was planned, but heavily influenced by autobiographical experiences of various sorts.

Marlene: Now that I’ve finished Assassin’s Price, I’m waiting breathlessly for the next one. Any idea what it and it’s title will be? And when?

Lee: I’m currently working on the sequel to Assassin’s Price, which also features Charyn, but since I’m only about halfway through, I’m not ready to say much yet, but that means, if I finish on schedule, it won’t be available until late in 2018 or sometime in 2019. And so far I haven’t settled on a title. In the meantime, there are two new Recluce books on the way, The Mongrel Mage, coming out this October, and its immediate sequel, Outcasts of Order, scheduled for release next June.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I absolutely adore this series, so I am very happy indeed that, thanks to Tor Books, I am able to give away one copy of Assassin’s Price to a lucky US/Canadian commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Treachery’s Tools by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Review: Treachery’s Tools by L.E. Modesitt Jr.Treachery's Tools (Imager Portfolio, #10) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Imager Portfolio #10
Pages: 512
Published by Tor Books on October 11th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Treachery's Tools is L. E. Modesitt's tenth novel in the New York Times bestselling Imager Portfolio fantasy series and begins thirteen years after the events of Madness in Solidar, Alastar has settled into his role as the Maitre of the Collegium. Now married with a daughter, he would like nothing better than to focus his efforts on improving Imager Isle and making it more self-sufficient.

However, the rise in fortune of the merchant classes in Solidar over the years does not sit well with the High Holders, who see the erosion of their long-enjoyed privileges. Bad harvests and worse weather spark acts of violence and murder. In the midst of the crisis, some High Holders call for repeals of the Codis Legis, taking authority away from the Rex.

Once again, Alastar must maintain a careful political balance, but he cannot avoid the involvement of the Collegium when someone begins killing students. Trying to protect his imagers and hold Solidar together for the good of all, Alastar stumbles on to a plot by the High Holders involving illegal weapons, insurrection, and conspiracy.

My Review:

They say that “age and treachery beat youth and skill”. In this book, the formula is more likely, “age and skill beat youth and treachery”. That’s not quite there either, but it’s a lot closer to the mark.

This is also a story about change, and the resistance to it. And because of that, Treachery’s Tools is primarily a political story. By that I mean politics as war conducted by other means, at least until war becomes necessary as a way of either cementing victory or preventing defeat.

Because the story is so steeped in politics, it is also a story about power corrupting. In this particular case, it is not much about absolute power corrupting absolutely, because no one in the story has that kind of power. They may want it, they may be fighting for it, but they don’t actually have it.

Instead, we have a story that has a lot of resonances with contemporary history. In the Solidar of Maitre Alastar’s time, the High Holders are slowly but surely losing their power. Not because they have done anything particularly wrong, although some individuals certainly have. But because they were on top in society as it was, and too many of them have hung on to their old ways as society has changed around them.

They liked the status quo, and don’t want to lose it. The problem is that the world is changing whether they like it or not, and more Factors (read businessmen), are amassing power and money even faster than the High Holders are losing it. Policy follows the money. The Factors have more money, and therefor more power. No one is doing anything evil per se, but time and tides are moving away from the large landholders and towards the manufacturers and businessmen.

Any parallels between the situation in the book and contemporary America, where the population is shifting to a majority minority population, and policies and attitudes are moving away from what the people who benefited from being in the old majority want to label as traditional, are in the eye of the beholder. But I think that they are there, right alongside a parallel to post-Industrial Revolution England.

In the story, the balance between all of the various factions is kept by the Imagers. Led by Alastar, they keep the balance because the strength of Solidar, and enforcement of its laws, keeps them safe. In turn, they try to keep the power balanced between the Rex, the High Holders, and the Factors because that provides the most stability for Solidar as a whole.

madness in solidar by le modesittAlastar was first introduced in Madness in Solidar, when he came from Westisle to the capital to deal with several crises, including a crazy Rex and a powerless Imager College. As much death and destruction as rained down on the capital in the process of setting things back on track, and as many deaths as could be laid directly at Alastar’s door, it’s been thirteen years since those events. People forget, especially when the events that they need to remember seem impossible.

So again, Alastar is forced to find a balance between an unworthy Rex, overreaching High Holders, recalcitrant Factors, traitorous colleagues and an Army that has divided upon itself. His only choice is to shore up as much as he can, because the alternatives all lead to darkness.

Escape Rating A: As I write this review, it is still May. I received the ARC two days ago, and I’ve already finished, knowing that I can’t post the review until October. And that I have a year to wait before the next book in the series, Assassin’s Price. It’s going to be a very long wait.

At the top, I used the saying about age and treachery beating youth and skill, because one of the underlying concepts that imbues this story is Alastar’s, and others’ perceptions of themselves, as getting older and not being as strong as they used to be. Alastar, now in his 50s, notices that he needs more time to recover from heavy imaging than he used to, and that he feels the aches of a day in the saddle or a serious beating on his shields a lot longer than he used to.

Alastar’s internal dilemma harkens back to the old Scandinavian saying, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” He is so concerned that he is not the man he used to be, that he forgets that there is a value in the knowledge and wisdom he has accrued over the years, and that his worth to the Collegium is in that very wisdom. The Collegium and Solidar need him for his intellect, his wisdom, and sometimes his patience. (Not that he has much of the last, even now!) In some cases, they even give their lives to make sure that he is the one who will be leading, because they know that no one else is nearly as capable of keeping their country from going to hell in a handcart.

Alastar’s case contrasts sharply with that of the old general Wilkorn. Both men were a bit shortsighted, and that shortsightedness contributed to the civil war they face. But Wilkorn’s sin was in letting too many things slide, where Alastar’s was in not seeing all the dangers quickly enough and far enough in advance. There’s a big difference between sheer complacency and not being wise enough to see all ends, but still continuing to try.

Treachery’s Tools has a bit of a feeling of “middle book”. Not that the action all trends down into the dark, but in that the situation we face was set up in Madness in Solidar. And even though Alastar manages to resolve this crisis, it is all too obvious that his work is not done. He has bought a respite, but the forces that gathered are merely defeated and not destroyed. He will clearly face another crisis in the books yet to come, whether Assassin’s Price closes this chapter of Solidar history or whether it takes a bit longer.

imager by le modesitt jrIn other words, if the Imager Portfolio sounds like your cup of epic fantasy, Treachery’s Tools is not the place to start. Start with either Imager, the first book in the series as published, or Scholar, the first book in the Solidar chronological order. But if you enjoy epic fantasy with a political bent, the Imager Portfolio is utterly awesome.