by L E Modesitt Jr
This is the second book in the Imager Portfolio, and it immediately follows the book Imager. While this can be viewed as a standalone story it reads best as being the second part of a story. Rhenn has become an Imager, but through a combination of circumstances and his own talents is still operating in a world where he is still very much learning all the unspoken rules that come with his position and his abilities.
There is also a sense in which the wider world is likewise having to adjust to the development of a new Imager. Like the previous book the action is tightly concentrated in the capital city of Solidar, the prominent nation on the planet. Despite that actions outside of the capital, and in the wider world, have a profound impact – but remain remote.
The action proceeds along at a steady pace, which quickens in the last third of the book as several unrelated threads in Rhenn’s life reach conclusion all around the same time. Rhenn’s journey is not complete at the end of Imager’s Challenge, but it has for the time plateaued. The achievements however come at the price of some real costs, some of which are obvious and others rather less so. The consequences of actions – even justified actions – can be terrible.
There is also a very strong sense of Rhenn being on the outside of his world, somewhat apart. This comes over in several ways. As an Imager he is apart from the wider populace, but even within the Imager community he is marked as being different. Then there is the matter of his intended, who also comes from a people that keep themselves apart.
However, even people who are apart from the world somewhat still have to live in it – and in many ways seeing Rhenn start to realise this, and step up to this challenge, is what I think this book is all about. By the end he has accepted the challenge that his life has offered him, with its attended dangers and rewards.
Personally I very much enjoyed Rhenn, and the further insights into his world. I suspect some might get turned off a little by Modesitt’s occasional moralising, and his writing style. To be fair I would not rate this amongst his strongest works, but it is still a good work.