Imager's Challenge

You may recall that I really enjoyed L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Imager (Canada, USA, Europe) a while back, going so far as to claim that the book could well be the best and most accessible series' opener the author ever came up with. The sequel remained on my "books to read" pile for months, and I knew it was high time to finally give it a shot. So I brought it with me when I left for South America.

Here's the blurb:

Imager’s Challenge takes up immediately after the conclusion of Imager. Still recovering from injuries received in foiling the plots of the Ferran envoy, Rhenn is preparing to take up his new duties as imager liaison to the Civic Patrol of L’Excelsis. No sooner has he assumed his new position than he discovers two things. First, the Commander of the Civic Patrol doesn’t want a liaison from the infamous Collegium, and soon has Rhenn patrolling the streets of the worst district in the city. Second, Rhenn receives formal notice that one of the High Holders, the father of a man Rhenn partly blinded in self-defense, has declared his intention to destroy Rhenn and his family.

Rhenn’s only allies are the family of the girl he loves, successful merchants with underworld connections. In the end, Rhenn must literally stand off against gang lords, naval marines, Tiempran terrorist priests, the most powerful High Holder in all of Solidar, and his own Collegium—and find a way to prevail without making further enemies and endangering those he loves

Modesitt wastes no time, and Imager's Challenge starts where Imager ended. As was the case with its predecessor, this second volume features features realistic worldbuilding, deft plotting, an interesting magical system, adroit characterization, and a subtle human touch. Hence, this novel is another intelligent and solid effort by the author.

Set into an industrialized environment akin to late 18th century Europe, the worldbuilding which is the backdrop of The Imager Portfolio is top notch. Once again, commerce, politics, and religion play key roles in Imager's Challenge. Especially the political aspect, which demonstrates that this series resounds with a lot more depth than meets the eye. It remains unclear just how many installments there will be in this series, but it's now obvious that there is a lot more to this tale than we first believed. Exactly how Rhennthyl will fit into this multilayered web of storylines should become clearer as the story progresses.

Imaging turned out to be a new and ingenious magical system in Imager and readers continue to learn more about how it all works as Rhenn practices and learns more about it himself. Once more, how the Collegium operates, both in small-scale and worldwide events, remains at the heart of the story.

Naturally, Imager's Challenge is told in the first person, the sole POV of the narrative being that of Rhennthyl. It works quite well, but as more and more layers are unveiled, I feel that having more POV characters could be beneficial. Yet given the structure of the series thus far, I doubt it will happen. Still, I'd be interested in a Seliora point of view. Though it will always be Rhenn's story, the supporting cast truly added another dimension to this one. These disparate characters, from all walks of life, definitely gave this book a different flavor. In addition to Seliora and her family, especially her grandmother, Master Dichartyn and other members of the Collegium, a number of interesting characters interact with Rhenn. Horazt and Shault came as an unexpected surprise, and so were a few patrollers.

Again, there is a social undertone hinting at the emancipation of a new generation of capable and efficient women attempting to establish themselves and take their rightful place in this male-dominated society. I'm curious to see how it will all fit in the greater scheme of things, but it is evident that Khethila and Iryela D'Alte's storylines will focus on that theme.

As is Modesitt's wont, the pace throughout Imager's Challenge is steady but not fast-moving. A slower rhythm is endemic to most of the author's works, yet Modesitt knows how to build momentum and keep you turning those pages. There is never a dull moment as we watch Rhenn deal with various dangers as he tries to do the right thing without incriminating himself and the Collegium while trying to protect his family and that of Seliora.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If it lives up to its vast potential, The Imager Portfolio could become one of Modesitt's signature works. This is probably L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s most accessible series to date and I encourage you to give it a shot. Chances are you won't be disappointed!

Imager's Challenge is another very good read from one of the most underappreciated talents in fantasy today.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

2 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

You sure do seem to like the scores 7.5 and 7.75 the past month and a half.

Anonymous said...

I found the comment about the point of to be intetesting. I thought this series greatest strength was the way it imersed the reader into the main characters point of view. It helped him create tension in the social and confrenceroom warfare sceanes. I think there is a real trade off when authors start to bring in more points of view, and that this book would have been weaker had he tried to organize it like just another muliple POV fantasy novel.