Scholar: A Novel in the Imager Portfolio
by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Cover Artist: Donato Giancola
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765329554
Date: 08 November 2011 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Quaeryt is more than anyone knows including himself. He is an imager but hides his talent for his own protection and hope for advancement. He is trying to develop his talent, but he doesn’t have good sources of information. There is no formal training, nor even good writings related to imaging. His path is treacherous, but he knows that he wants to do more than just survive.
Quaeryt is friends with Bhayar the ruler of Telaryn. He receives aid from Bhayar for doing little services and sharing thoughts and questions with his old school chum. He must continue to prove himself useful. So when he suggests more knowledge is needed to make a decision, he gets assigned to Tilbor to discover why it is taking so long to settle down and accept Bhayar’s rule.
His trip to Tilbor is eye-opening in multiple ways. He finds that scholars are not well regarded in many places. They are regarded almost as poorly as imagers. Fortunately he finds friends as well as enemies along the way. Each adventure leads him to learn more about Tilbor, and more about what has to happen in order to bring peace so that the realm can focus on external enemies. In the end, Quaeryt gets what he wants and more, but each victory brings a new challenge.
Even though Scholar is the fourth book set in the Imager Profile universe, it is a good entry point to the series. This new series is set a few hundred years prior to the actions of Rhenn. The older world is still a fractured place, and its society has only a few recognizable features. Readers will slowly discover the differences as they are revealed through Quaeryt’s adventures. New readers can learn about the rules without the preconceived notions of those of us that have read everything.
One mark of a good book is the reader’s desire to reread it. I read Scholar, and then planned a few week break before writing this review. After my wife read it, we discussed the book and I wanted to reread Scholar before I started the review. Scholar was as good the second time, as it was the first. I picked up on a few things I missed in my first go through. There are lots of little tidbits that foreshadow the future that we saw in the first series as well as hints of what is to come in the next few volumes. This also led me to reread the first three books of the Imager Profile -- still good as well.
This series mixes magic and science. Although the technology is pretty low level in Scholar, it shows how far it was able to advance in a few hundred years. There are not many books that are similar to this work outside of Mr. Modesitt’s own work, but A Young Man Without Magic and the sequel, Above His Proper Station by Lawrence Watt Evans are as close as I have read.
Quaeryt is much less sheltered than Rhenn. His earlier experiences as a sailor have prepared him for a rough and tumble world. I really liked the Rhenn stories, but I have a feeling that the new adventures with Quaeryt are going to be much better as he travels the world.