on May 26, 2012
Princeps, the continuation of Scholar is up to Mr. Modesitt's usual high standard. The author has a very distinctive voice and style. If you are familiar with it, then you know what to expect. If you are not, then it is almost like reading a chess game. Characters (pieces) meet or approach, form alliances or enmities and fade away or conflict ensues. This is not to say that the story is dull but the plot is very logical.
Quaeryt, our main protagonist, newly married, is settling in as the Princeps or deputy governor of the province which he had saved in the previous book, Scholar. A natural disaster sends him to another city to govern although this could be said to be more crisis management than the role of a normal governor. From there, the plot continues predictably: not because of the writing but due to human nature. Modesitt is nothing if not a realist.
There are pleasant characteristics: a dash of mysticism and the well thought out magic system; this is more of a tool than anything else and exacts a price. A few more veils are lifted from the fascinating world that Modesitt is building although this is being done gradually as this is book two of a five book series. Modesitt's usual philosophy for his protagonists - the more they learn, the more they realize how little they know - runs strongly in this novel and stops Quaeryt from becoming a cardboard superhero.
Finally, a couple of points: having read a few odd negative reviews about Scholar, please note that this book has nothing to do with Rhenn, the protagonist of the first three Imager books. This is the second volume of five about Quaeryt and is set during a much earlier period in the same world.
If you are thinking about trying out this series, I would very much recommend beginning with the first volume of Quaeryt's adventures, Scholar. This is not really a standalone novel but a hugely enjoyable follow up.
on May 22, 2012
Princeps is a direct follow-up to Scholar and continues the story of Quaeryt, the Scholar/Imager. In Scholar, Quaeryt grew greatly both as a person and as an Imager through his service to Lord Bhayar in investigating the reason for heavy military requirements in the province on Tilbor. Quaeryt's resounding success in figuring out the underlying issue and protecting Lord Bhayar's interests is rewarded by an appointment as Princeps of Tilbor and marriage to Bhayar's sister, Vaelora.
As Princeps of Tilbor, Quaeryt has a lot of his plate while managing the administrative and financial aspects of the province. Quaeryt is responsible for working out the details when merchants or tradesmen seek concessions or to negotiate with the government. This is a great teaching and learning experience for a well educated Scholar, and prepares him for the next phase of the story.
After a natural disaster in the province of Extela, Quaeryt and his wife are called by Lord Bhayar to take control and re-assert order. One interesting part of this is L.E. Modesitt's re-use of an ethnic group's gift for precognition. Vealora's grandmother had seen a vision of this a natural disaster taking place, but did not know when it would occur. The events surrounding the relocation to Extela, and Quaeryt's efforts to establish a working government and to keep people fed, are ground well-covered by Modesitt in many of his other books. It doesn't make it less interesting, but it does feel familiar. Quaeryt also comes into conflict with some of the greedy, self-interested local nobility. I liked the way that Modesitt did not paint all wealthy people with the same brush in terms of profiting from the misfortunes of others. It's actually a very relevant political theme in modern society, but I can't tell if Modesitt meant it as such or merely another of the philosophical ideas that he is wont to embed in his writing.
Quaeryt's expected success in responding to the disaster and re-establishing order comes at a cost. As in most cases where an outsider comes in and challenges the status quo, there are a number of factions within the city who call for his removal. For me this was a powerful comment on the social behavior of certain types of people, who are happier with the poor performance of an incompetent administrator they can manipulate over a superior, effective administrator who does not allow inefficiency to persist. For Quaeryt this means that he is called to serve Lord Bhayar directly in the lead-up to armed hostilities with another nation that is seeking to take advantage of the turmoil brought on by the disaster.
Princeps is another solid Modesitt novel. It's nothing special in and of itself, but there are definitely elements of the book, including the philosophical discussion, that are well worth reading. Quaeryt is not a dynamic heroic character, but he is interesting because he uses tactics that are rooted in common sense and hard work. Putting that together with the long-established writing style and world development that Modesitt has mastered, and you have a good book for fans of the author. Clearly there is more to come from Quaeryt, and I look forward to seeing what happens next and how his life provides a continued foundation for the future that we have already seen in previous books.
on May 30, 2012
INTRODUCTION: After the trilogy consisting of Imager, Imager's Challenge and Imager's Intrigue that introduced us to Rhenn, one of the most enchanting narrators in recent fantasy, LE Modesitt goes back in time before the unification of Solidar to give us a tale that introduces another great character, scholar and secret imager, Quaeryt Rytersyn.
This time we will be treated to five Quaeryt volumes in the next few years - all written and all but the last titled and edited to go - so Princeps which picks up exactly where Scholar ends is the second volume of a huge five volume novel.
I will try to keep spoilers for Scholar at the minimum but obviously there will be some, so if you have not yet read the first Quaeryt novel and do not want to find out some major developments there, check my review of Scholar above instead.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: First a quick refresher of the setup: the island continent of Lydar - in Rhenn's books named Solidar - separated in various states since time immemorial has recently been consolidated into three countries, of which big bad Bovaria in the East under sinister Rex Kharst plans to unite the whole continent with fire and sword and cleanse it of undesirable elements like the Pharsi minority - darker hued merchants, industrialists and seers famous for their beautiful and beguiling women as we have seen Seliora, Rhenn's wife in the original trilogy - the learned scholars and the magic wielding Imagers.
Opposing it, Telaryn is the other main continental power which has expanded to conquer most of the Western part of Lydar under its warlord Yaran dynasty, while the smaller southern Antiago stands for now mostly due to the reputation of its war Imagers and dreaded Antiagon Fire weapon.
Married with beautiful Pharsi women, so their prophetic capabilities run also in their family, the lords of Telaryn, brutal and unforgiving as they may be, are still better than the alternatives, and current Lord Bhayar is actually milder than his father and grandfather, though of course that invites ambitious governors with armies at their back to plot against him as some feel they offer a better chance to fight bigger Bovaria.
But Bhayar has a secret weapon - not that he fully knows it to start, though as the master manipulator he is slowly revealed through the first two books, he soon realizes it and becomes ruthless in using it -and of course that weapon is his former childhood classmate, Quaeryt, orphan raised by scholars, blond but with Pharsi blood so making him one of "the lost ones" as he keeps hearing it, super competent trouble shooter, scholar and secret Imager.
And as Quaeryt starts solving some of Bhayar most pressing internal problems, while keeping a semi-official correspondence with Vaelora, the headstrong and very intelligent youngest sister of Bhayar, what better way for the manipulator lord to marry the two and get rid of a potential domestic problem and tie Quaeryt even stronger to Bhayar's reign - not that Quaeryt does not realize it but as this dialog with Bhayar shows it, that's how it is:
"Quaeryt could not have expected anything else, he supposed. "Not Vaelora. Don't bring her into it--"
"I won't, not so long as I can count on you."
You truly are a bastard. Quaeryt didn't speak those words. "What other choice do we have?" He kept his voice level.
"Not much. You more than anyone should know what Kharst--or any other ruler--would do ... has done to imagers and scholars."
"Why do you think I've done what I've done--even before Vaelora?"
While keeping the same essential structure as "Scholar" - third person narration focusing on Quaeryt and storyline divided into three parts with the short first, more of an introduction, and the second and third parts being the "meat" of the book all ending with a concluding few pages at a good "to be continued" point, "Princeps" has a few differences, most notably the addition of Vaelora as main character whom we see quite a lot of as Quareyt's wife and the clearer division between Quaeryt as problem solver and Quaeryt as soldier since they roughly correspond to the second and third parts respectively.
I actually quite like that in this series - unlike the usual genre approach - rather than having the hero's love interest suffer unexpected reverses and the two being apart for contrived reasons, the author has the hero getting engaged and married fast so there are two main characters, and possibly kids to come too.
Another good point that is driven very well home in Princeps is that competence is not necessarily appreciated in a society that does not follow a democratic capitalist organization like ours, as being good at what you do may be threatening to the vested interests and may also rub them in the face with the fact that money or noble blood does not really make one superior.
"Still, as he waited, Quaeryt couldn't help but ponder about the situation in which he found himself. For far more than the first time, he wanted to shake his head. If he provided flour at a reasonable price for the poorer inhabitants of Extela, the factors and holders complained. If he didn't, the poor complained."
This very sfnal approach to fantasy - which is a trademark of both the Imager and the long running Recluce series is also something I really like and it is part of why with around 30 books read from his 56 or so published to date, L.E. Modesitt is second in living authors ranked by how much I read from and any new book of his is at least a "try" if not a must.
Overall Princeps is a top 25 novel of mine for 2012 and I will end with the one phrase summation from Goodreads that could stand in place of the longer review above: "excellent sequel to "Scholar"; Quaeryt and Vaelora solve one problem at a time until the **** hits badly the fan."
Note: this review has been originally published on Fantasy Book Critic and all the links and references are to be found there
on November 30, 2012
This is what happens when you crank out book after book... Basic idea is fine, plot is formulaic and predictable. Like most of his recent work the plot goes like this: random person starts out from modest roots, has unusually powerful version of a rare talent, and progresses "up the ladder" until the top or near top. Things happen because they happen (dues ex machina) rotinely. Interactions between men and women are lame. They devolve into routine exchanges. In this series, the theme is "disrespectful". I was cringing each time it came up. Lame.
Easy, fast read, and will be of interest to fans of the Imager series. Far from well written though. I will buy the next one, as I now want to see the end, but I'm not anxiously awaiting it.
on July 7, 2012
This is a sequel to Scholar in the Imager Portfolio. I enjoyed this book and recommend it after you have read Scholar. The first three books of the Imager Portfolio will provide some helpful background on the theology and imaging (the local system of magic), but are not necessary for the enjoyment of this book. Modesitt presents his ideas on marriage, government, relationships, and religion through story elements rather than exposition as he sometimes has done. Always, I learn something or at least have a truth reinforced by reading Modesitt. In this case, we follow Quaeryt as his powers in "imaging" grow to Superman proportions and vicariously experience the temptations, frustrations and limitations that come with this kind of power. While this is a common theme in many of Modesitt's novels, it is very well done here with Quaeryt actually given formal control over the government after a natural disaster. We see that being able to be invisible or to kill undetectably have limited value when faced with the problem of having to organize and motivate thousands of people to "do the right thing". Indeed, part of the irony of the story is that Quaeryt is manipulated against his will by his wife and friends to give several homilies to the nameless god of this world and that these actually increase his influence and ability to make the world a better place more than his imaging. Quaeryt is making friends, building relationships, and creating institutions that, I am sure, will prove in later books to be much more important than the raw power he is developing. Enjoy the journey.
on June 24, 2012
Modisetts Imager series is a superlative reach into the imagination. I waited three months to receive Princeps, and finished it in three days. It was a stimulating read, and I would recommend it to any serious fantasy readers.
B. Thomas Lewis
on April 3, 2014
This book begins right where the previous book (Scholar) left off, with our hero Quaeryt now married to Vaelora and still running the administration of Tilbor. Unfortunately, as foreseen by Lord Bhayar's grandmother, the former capital of Telaryn, Pompeii Excela, is covered by a volcanic eruption and thrown into chaos. Quaeryt is appointed interim Governor and sent to restore order to the province. During this book, Quaeryt's imager skills become more of an open secret, with some heavy foreshadowing of how the Imagisle scholars house and rules will come to be formulated.
Did I like this book? Um. Maybe? I enjoyed some of the action sequences, and a lot of the verbal byplay between the soldiers and officers. Unfortunately, Modesitt likes to pick an idiomatic theme and then repeat it like it's his favorite drum to beat. This time, it was about whether Quaeryt was properly "respecting" his higher-status wife. sigh.
I picked it up because I like this storyline generally, and really enjoyed the second Imager book. I keep hoping for that kind of building and layering plot/action again.
I would recommend this book to people already involved in the Imager series. It's definitely not the place to start, though.
on June 4, 2012
The wait for this book was well worth it. As with his previous books, Modesitt has created a world where I was drawn into and lived through the events I was reading. I could not put the book down until I had finished it!
I enjoy the depth of character that Modesitt brings to each individual in his novels. It helps me to relate to each and every character, especially the main characters.
I cannot wait for the third book to this set, I am sure it will be just as spectacular as the long list of novels he has already published.
on April 20, 2014
I am a fan of all of Modesitt's fantasy series. For me, his books encompass everything I need for a spell-binding story. This volume, "Pinceps," is the fifth in Queryrt's adventures in support of the king's directives. After marrying the king's sister, Quaeryt is successively assigned as the Pinceps of the northern region, then is reassigned as governor of a southern district, where he irritates the high holders that the king sends him into battle against an invading army. The invaders in this major battle are defeated and as a result, Quaeryt almost dies.
The plot is intricate, complex and fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed "Pinceps," as always with any of Modesitt's writings.
I do have find it a little annoying that In almost every chapter, someone tells Quaeryrt how great a job he is doing or has done. I understand that some of this may be a means to refresh the reader on what went on previously, but I still find so much annoying and contrived.
Overall, another great volume and highly recommeded.
on August 5, 2015
My very favorite author. I have reread all his books many times and I have always been captivated. His characters are always well developed. The only negative thing in all his books is the spelling and grammar. He really needs better proofreaders who read every word. The stories are always good and thought provoking, but the many errors in all his books always distracts me.