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.
by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Imager Portfolio #2
October 12, 2009
Not too bad as far as sequels go, but featuring a somewhat muddy plot.
In this story, we pick up with Rhenn right after his rather overzealous handling of the Ferran spies at the end of Imager. He’s beat up, broken, and unofficially barred from duty at the Council, so he finds himself sent to the Civil Patrol as a Liaison for the Collegium, where he soon discovers evidence of corruption and becomes a target (nothing new for Rhenn at this point). Add to that a vengeful High Lord with deep pockets who wants nothing less than total destruction of Rhenn and his entire family. Good thing Rhenn has a girlfriend with connections. He needs them.
Starting with what I liked, first off, I really dig how Rhenn stands up for the folks in the Taudis (i.e. slums). This kicks up to an admirable level once he begins going on patrols. I also like how the author doesn’t completely rewrite Rhenn’s character. He obviously still thinks he’s better than pretty much everyone he encounters, but he manages to be much more tactful and diplomatic, for the most part. Still, he has a dark, cold side to him that keeps him from becoming one-dimensional, though some of what he does seems counter to the development of his character. He’s either too kind or too arrogant or too whiny or too vicious, seeming to flip through these states almost at whim.
I also liked that the level of detail given to each and every meal, eating establishment and wine has toned down quite a bit as compared to Imager. We still get a rundown, but it’s more of an executive summary than a play by play dissection of the culinary arts.
As for what I didn’t like, well, it seems like there’s no real underlying plot to this series, no big question to answer, no real direction. There’s a blooming war (still), but no indication that Rhenn will ever really play a personal part in it, so I’m not sure why so much attention is given to it, mostly in “casual” conversations at the Collegium dinner table or in a review of the stories in a newspaper. Not all that edge of your seat, in my opinion.
As for the plot of this book? It’s muddy. Are we supposed to be rooting for the fight against corruption on the Patrol, or are we supposed to be rooting for the defeat of the vengeful Lord that wants to take Rhenn down? If we’re supposed to care about either, why is so much time and energy devoted to mundane topics like boring dates, what’s for lunch, cut scenes where he’s painting or setting up for painting, and mundane family get-togethers? The romance also falls flat. The emotion just doesn’t come through, and the whole relationship seems to progress as a given.
So overall, I kind of liked this story. It’s not particularly exciting, though there is some action here and there and a decent magic system to back it up. I’d recommend it to folks who enjoy books with a lot of description and world building and a hero with magical aptitude. The socio-economic struggles, religious philosophy, and inner commentary might also be appealing to folks who like discovering the ins and outs of a world in that fashion.
The review copy of this book was purchased by the reviewer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After spending years writing poetry, political speeches and analyses, as well as economic and technical reports on extraordinarily detailed and often boring subjects, I finally got around to writing my first short story, which was published in 1973. I kept submitting and occasionally having published stories until an editor indicated he’d refuse to buy any more until I wrote a novel. So I did, and it was published in 1982, and I’ve been writing novels — along with a few short stories — ever since.
If you want to know more, you can visit my website at http://www.lemodesittjr.com.