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#CBR6 Review #17: Antiagon Fire

Antiagon FireTarget: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Antiagon Fire (Imager Portfolio #7)

Profile: Fantasy, Political Fiction, Military

After Action Report:

Two things struck me as I was preparing for this review:  First, I somehow managed to skip Imager’s Battalion during my utter failure of a Cannonball Read 5.  I read the book, but I never got a review up.  Second, I think I ran out of useful things to say about the series back at book five.  The things that I liked are still good, and the elements that are weaker don’t seem to be improving.  If anything, the series’ increasing focus on military action reduces the immediacy of Quaeryt’s story and undermines the relationship readers have been building over the course of the last three books.  While the increased presence of Quaeryt’s wife, Vaelora, is a welcome and well executed addition, more and more Quaeryt feels like a background character in his own story.

To fill in some blanks, Imager’s Battalion took Quaeryt from the world of politics into the military, placing him in command of the first squad of Imagers ever used in true military service.  Charged with the invasion of the hostile nation of Bovaria, Quaeryt and the army he accompanies face down an escalating series of challenges while balancing the need to subjugate with the desire to be fair to the citizens they encounter.  Antiagon Fire follows much in the same vein, as a newly promoted Quaeryt is sent as an envoy to the people of Khel in an attempt to prevent further war.  Along the way, he is attacked by forces from the 3rd remaining nation, Antiago, prompting another conflict.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #18 – Princeps

PrincepsTarget: L. E. Modesitt Jr.’s Princeps (Imager Portfolio #5)

Profile: Fantasy, Political Fiction

After Action Report:

After reading both Scholar and Princeps, I honestly think I was wrong about Modesitt’s motivations behind abandoning the ‘present-day’ progression of his Imager Portfolio series.  Pinceps is the second book in the Portfolio to follow Quaeryt, an imager that lived hundreds of years before the events of Imager.  In my review of Quaeryt’s first novel, Scholar, I accused Modesitt of fighting off stagnation by radically shifting the setting and the protagonist.  But now I’m beginning to think that he wrote a huge amount of backstory for the island nation of Solidar and was getting frustrated at being unable to use it in Rhennthyl’s storylines.

Princeps continues to flesh out the formation of Solidar, as the restless city-states of the continent are gearing up for full-fledged war.  But the primary focus of these books is increasingly an ongoing treatise on the value of intellectualism, the dangers of populism and an indictment of racial intolerance.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #38 – Scholar

Target: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Scholar (Imager Portfolio #4)

Profile: Fantasy, Political Fiction

Summary: Taken from the back cover, “Hundreds of years before the time of Imager, the continent of Lydar is fragmented.  Quaeryt is a scholar and a friend of Bhayar, the young ruler of Telaryn.  Worried about his future and the escalating intrigues in the capital city, Quaeryt persuades Bhayar to send him to Tilbor, conquered ten years earlier by Bhayar’s father, in order to see if the occupying army there can be redeployed along its border with the warlike nation of Bovaria.

Quaeryt has managed to conceal the fact that he is an imager, since the life expectancy of imagers is short.  His voyage to Tilbor is filled with pirates, storms, poisonings, attempted murder… and the discovery that he is not quite who he thought he was.”

After Action Report:

In practice, there are two solutions to mental stagnation.  The first is to innovate; take the established scenario or problem and approach it with new ideas or a different perspective.  The second is to do something else.  If Modesitt successfully innovated in Imager’s Intrigue, the third book in the Imager Portfolio, he is now using the second tactic, abandoning everything but the setting from book three.  Scholar upends the progression of the series by taking us back to the formation of Solidar and a new/old Imager who helped create the nation that Rhennthyl fights to defend.

To be fair, this isn’t a new tactic to Modesitt.  He frequently abandons major protagonists, storyline events and even time periods, to inject new life into flagging series.  For me as a reader, this can get a little annoying.  I don’t like being kept in the dark about characters I’ve come to care about.  But from the perspective of a reviewer, this methodology is kind of a blessing.  Not only can it bring a new energy to a series, but I can actually talk about the plot without having to worry about spoilers.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #6 – Imager’s Intrigue

Target: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Imager’s Intrigue (Imager Portfolio #3)

Profile: Fantasy, Political/Spy Fiction

Summary: From the Back Cover, “In Imager, the first book of the Imager Portfolio, we met Rhennthyl, an apprentice portrait artist whose life was changed by a disastrous fire.  But the blaze that took his master’s life and destroyed his livelihood revealed a secret power previously dormant in Rhenn: the power of Imaging, the ability to shape matter using thought.  With some trouble, he adapted to the controlled life of an imager.

By Imager’s Challenge, Rhenn had become a liaison to the local and law forces.  He found himself in direct conflict with both authorities and national politics as he tried to uphold the law and do his best by the people of his home.

Now, in Imager’s Intrigue, Rhenn has come into his own.  He has a wife and a young child, and a solid career as an imager.  But he has made more than one enemy during his journey from apprentice painter to master imager, and even his great powers won’t allow him to escape his past.” Read the rest of this entry