Review: Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

madness in solidar by le modesittFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #9
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Four centuries after its founding, Solidar’s Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The Collegium is so lacking in leadership that the dying Maitre must summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle far to the south who has little knowledge of politics in the capital, as his successor. When Alastar arrives in L’Excelsis and becomes the new Maitre, he finds disarray and lack of discipline within the Collegium, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as being mad.

To make matters worse, neither Rex Ryen, ridiculed as Rex Dafou, nor the High Holders have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar finds himself in the middle of a power struggle, with Ryen demanding that the Collegium remove the strongest High Holders and the military leadership in turn plotting to topple Ryen and destroy the Collegium. At the same time, Ryen is demanding the High Holders pay a massive increase in taxes while he initiates a grandiose building project. And all that, Alastar discovers, is only a fraction of the problems he and the Collegium face.

My Review:

imager by le modesitt jrI have adored this series (The Imager Portfolio) since a friend shoved the first book, Imager, at me six years ago. The Imager Portfolio is a marvelous epic fantasy series with a couple of interesting twists. First, the heroes of the now three separate subseries solve their problems with a lot more brain than brawn. Second, although each series centers around a character who is coming into their own in one way or another, they are not traditional coming-of-age stories. In all three series, the main character is an adult (albeit a relatively young one in Imager) and knows who they are and what they plan to do with their lives. In each series, we see them grow and change when some or all of what they planned is turned upside-down. Or at least turned sideways.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrMadness in Solidar takes place at the historical mid-point between the events at the end of Rex Regis (reviewed here) and the beginning of Imager. In the story, the accomplishments of Quaryt in Rex Regis have taken on the patina of legend; all the members of the Imager Collegium know that Quaryt was their founder, but his specific accomplishments have faded into the misty past, as he intended.

Alastar, the new Maitre of the Collegium, finds that he needs to re-discover the techniques that made Quaryt into a legend, because the Collegium that Alastar has just taken over is a complete mess. While the situation for Imagers in Solidar are not quite as desperate as they were in Quaryt’s time, they are heading down that hill at speed. If Alastar can’t find a way to make the Collegium and its Imagers at least highly respected again, and soon, the days when Imagers are persecuted (and executed) are not far behind.

The Collegium is a total SNAFU. His predecessor as maitre was too sick, and possibly also too lazy and too conciliatory, to see that it was necessary for the imagers to be strong, respected and useful in order for them to maintain their place in Solidar politics. Especially since part of their charter was to use their power to maintain the balance between the Rex, the High Holders and the merchant Factors. Shy and retiring just doesn’t work when you are the fulcrum and everyone else thinks they have a lever.

Alastar represents change. He believes that the imagers have to be strong in order to survive, and he’s been left with a position of extreme weakness. Additionally, he is completely unknown, and relatively unknowing, of politics in the capital. He’s been at Westisle, where the position has not been so dire. Now he has to swim with the political sharks in order to keep the Collegium afloat.

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.It does not help his situation that the current Rex is not exactly the most capable man to hold the throne since the days of Rex Bhayar and the unification of Solidar, as seen in Scholar, Princeps, Imager’s Battalion, Antiagon Fire and Rex Regis. The question is whether the current Rex is simply insane, or just monumentally uncaring of the effects his edicts have on his people. The High Holders, the Factors and even the military are all itching to stage a coup.

Only Alastar and the Collegium can ensure an orderly change of leadership. And only if Alastar can bring his Imagers back to the level of fear, or respect, that they held in Quaryt’s time.

Or if he can bluff really, really well.

Escape Rating A: I grab this series the minute it comes up on Edelweiss, usually months ahead of publication. Then I can’t wait to read them and have a review ready 6 months before I can publish it.

Also starting my countdown until the next book in the series.

Alastar as a main character was an interesting choice, on the one hand, he has a lot of crap to clear up, and making big changes makes for great stories. On that other hand, Alastar is in his late 30’s, making him a rather mature hero to be coming into his own power.

He’s also very much a fish out of water, as all of his experience has been off in remote Westisle, and he finds himself dropped into the middle of a huge political crap-pile. He has to straighten out the problems within the Collegium at the same time he is hoping he can get the whole country back on track. Inside the Collegium he can display his power openly, but the Imagers have not and cannot rule the country. He has to maneuver his way into being the power behind the throne, but first he has to rearrange things so that a reasonable person is sitting on that throne, without showing too much of his hand.

He’s stuck very much in the middle, or muddle, and being attacked on all sides. Not just academic attacks within the Collegium, but actual ordinance attacks as some of the more unscrupulous nobles attempt to use his predecessor’s weakness and the current Rex’ insanity as a way of removing both the throne and the College in one fell swoop.

Alastar makes both good allies and bad enemies to save the Imagers. The size of the backlash he will have to deal with in the next book will show just how much he succeeded.

I can’t wait.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio, #8
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

The saga of the Imager Quaeryt, Commander in the forces of Lord Bhayar, reaches a new climax as the great struggle to unify the continent of Lydar enters its final phase. Only the land of Khel remains uncommitted to Bhayar’s rule. Their decision could mean a lasting peace, or more conflict across an already war-ravaged realm.

While the conqueror of Bovaria awaits emissaries to arrive with news of Khel’s decision, other weighty matters occupy Bhayar, his sister Velora, and her husband Quaeryt—not the least of which is the fulfillment of Quaeryt’s dream to create the world’s first Imager academy, where the magical abilities of these powerful casters may be honed, managed, and put to the service of the common good.

But before that dream may be realized, or Khel’s fateful choice made known, the spectre of high treason threatens to unravel all that Quaeryt has achieved, catapulting him toward a fateful confrontation with Bhayar’s most powerful military leaders.

My Review:

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.This volume in the second part of the Imager Portfolio, which started with Scholar, has been about the consolidation of Bhayar’s rule over Tilbor and conquest of the rest of the continent in order to create the continental empire that becomes the Solidar we know in the first volume Imager. It’s been a long ride, or read.

Rex Regis is Bhayar’s title, or it will be if Quaeryt gets the job done, because Quaeryt has been the mover and shaker (sometimes literally) behind many events. Quaeryt’s goal is to create a College where imagers like himself can be trained and protected. In returned, those imagers will back the crown against the High Holders (Lords) and Factors (Merchant Princes).

In case it’s not obvious, imagers are mages. If they manage to live long enough, in a world that reviles them, they can become very powerful mages.

Quaeryt Ryterson is the most powerful imager his country has ever seen. More importantly, he seems to be the most intelligent. His story, told in the books Scholar, Princeps, Imager’s Battalion, Antiagon Fire and now Rex Regis, have made the journey of someone who goes through life intending to be the power behind the throne, fascinating beyond description. Quaeryt has always known that his safety, his prosperity, the best legacy he can leave behind him, lie in making imagers as a group useful to the best ruler he can find, or make, and that the ruler in question can never ever be himself with his imaging “sorcery”. His resistance to temptation is steadfast.

Bhayar thinks early in Quaeryt’s career that he can make him more compliant by arranging for a marriage between Quaeryt and Bhayar’s youngest sister, Vaelora. Instead, it becomes a love match that gives both of those strong-willed people a partner they can rely on no matter what fate brings them.

Rex Regis seems to be the story of the final consolidation of the empire. All of the conquered territories have been brought into line, except, now that the war is over, the jockeying for position among the conquerors has begun. Some of the senior military commanders feel that Bhayar is too young to truly be the firm leader that the new world demands. And he listens to Quaeryt much too much, when he should be listening to them!

But are there really traitors within their midst, or is Quaeryt seeing shadows in men’s hearts at the end of a long and dangerous campaign? Or have fugitive imagers from the defeated rulers suborned loyal men?

Some campaigns never end. Some victories are hard won. And some warriors who deserve to see the peace they have fought for are not fortunate enough to live to see it arrive.

Escape Rating A: Quaeryt’s journey has been a never-ending pleasure to read. I say this having been up until 2 am the first night reading Rex Regis because I didn’t want to stop. But each book has been just that way. Even though Quaeryt has usually been in the position of either bureaucrat or soldier on campaign, he’s always been a self-aware observer of his situation, and his observations are interesting. His mind is never idle, and he’s always trying to make things better.

Modesitt has managed to make both bureaucracy and the hurry-up-and-wait of a long military campaign into compelling reading.

There’s also a bit of the “head, heart, synthesis” trio, or classic Freudian Power Trio among Quaeryt, Bhayar and Vaelora. (Think Kirk, Spock and McCoy from the original Star Trek series.) Quaeryt represents cold logical analysis, Vaelora is the emotional heart, and Bhayar as the ruler has to make the final decisions.

Quaeryt has earned the loyalty of the men who serve with him. He could have used that loyalty to become ruler himself. He could even have become a tyrant. Listening to the logic of why he doesn’t, it’s refreshing. It’s not often that the hero is also in effect a beta character; someone who sets out to create a power structure behind the throne.

I’m not 100% positive whether Quaeryt’s entire saga is done, or not. Rex Regis ends at a point where we can see the “empire that will be”, the place that it is at the start of Imager. Quaeryt’s entire story has been a prequel for the first trilogy. But, there are also loose ends that could still be tied up. I would love to visit this world again.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio, #7
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: May 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

The hard-won battles fought in Imager’s Battalion have earned Quaeryt a promotion to commander, as well as an assignment to convince the Pharsi High Council in the nation of Khel to submit to Lord Bhayar’s rule, which is key to Bhayar’s ambition to unite all of Solidar. Joined by his pregnant wife Vaelora, who is also Bhayar’s sister, Quaeryt leads an army and a handful of imagers deeper into the hostile lands once held by the tyrannical Rex Kharst, facing stiff-necked High Holders, attacks by land and sea—including airborne fire launched by hostile imagers from the land of Antiago—and a mysterious order of powerful women who seem to recognize the great destiny that awaits Quareyt and Vaelora, as well as the cost of achieving it.

My Review:

In most epic fantasies, the theme is good vs. evil.   Often, specifically, some youngster discovers that he or she is a hero of legendary destiny and gathers a group of like-minded souls together to go out and face the dastardly grand pooh-bah of powerful wickedness.
Quaeryt Ryterson, the current hero of L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Imager Portfolio, doesn’t really fit the mold, and neither does the Imager Portfolio series. I’ve enjoyed the story more for those differences.

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.Quaeryt started his part of the story, in Scholar, as a grown man who already knew what his powers were  and who had developed his own agenda. He planned to use his intelligence, and his “connection” with Lord Bhayar, ruler of Telaryn, to forge a safer and more secure place in society for people like himself, meaning people who were either scholars, imagers or both.

Neither scholars nor imagers, meaning magic-users, are highly respected in Quaeryt’s world. Imagers in particular faced fear, extreme prejudice, and even death for their talents. Scholars usually just lived in poverty and were disrespected.

There is no “great evil” in the Imager Portfolio. Only the evil that men do. But just as power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Quaeryt faces a number of men who do quite a bit of evil in their desire to prevent Quaeryt from accomplishing his goals.

Especially since Quaeryt’s intelligence and education tend to result in exposure for the corrupt, and his loyal backing of his friend and patron Lord Bhayar result in the toppling of quite a few less enlightened rulers.

This is because Quaeryt has determined that the best way for him to get what he wants is for him to ably assist Bhayar in getting what HE wants, the unification of the Lidar continent under Bhayar’s rule. That assistance has resulted in Quaeryt becoming a military commander on campaign. A very able military commander who commands not just the loyalty of his troops, but also some special powers, because Quaeryt has become a powerful imager.

In Antiagon Fire, for the first time Quaeryt faces an enemy who knows how to fight against imagers. He also faces imagers in battle who have power equal to his own. And just as he sees everything he has worked for within his grasp, he faces the loss of all the he holds dear.

[Imager's Battalion by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.]Escape Rating A: Imager’s Battalion was about the military campaign, while Antiagon Fire is more about the diplomatic side of the conquest of Lidar. Both are about the Quaeryt’s long-term strategy to make a better future for imagers and scholars, and everyone else. Quaeryt is an idealist with a pragmatic streak.

He’s also utterly fascinating. He tries to never take the credit for anything he does, because he knows that his enemies will pounce (metaphorically speaking) and doom his quest.

In the middle of the story, the seeresses of Kell tell him that if he succeeds, no one will remember his name. He doesn’t care. It’s the doing of it that matters to him. In that moment, Quaeryt, together with his wife, Vaelora, reminded me a lot of Delenn and Captain Sheridan in Babylon 5, in the episode “Comes the Inquisitor“. They were the right people at the right time because they were willing to give their lives for each other, all alone in the dark, certain that someone else would take up the fight, whether anyone would remember their names or not. It was not about the glory. It’s not about the glory for Quaeryt, it’s about the goal. And about his love for Vaelora, although he never thought he’d get that lucky.

Nothing great is accomplished without cost. The ending left me open-mouthed in shock. And upset that the final book in the series, Rex Regis, probably won’t be out until the end of the year at the earliest.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.