Princeps: A Novel in the Imager Portfolio
by L.E. Modesitt
Edited by David G. Hartwell
Cover Artist: Donato Giancola
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330956
Date: 22 May 2012 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Quaeryt has quashed the uprising and potential rebellion in Tilbor. He has married Vaelora, Lord Bhayar’s sister, on direct order from Bhayar. Now he plans to settle in as Princeps of Tilbor and relax as he helps to rebuild the province. Although he has risen in rank, the High Holders maintain a social distance. This distance is grating to his wife whose station allows her to expect respect. Quaeryt’s lower station limits his recognition of snubbing that causes him to miss some of the machinations of the High Holders.
The calm peace of winter turns toward spring bringing change. A long foretold disaster forces Quaeryt and Vaelora to travel to the ancestral lands of Bhayar to repair the damage. Quaeryt is named temporary governor of a province that is in ruins. He needs to rebuild the damaged city of Extela, replace its civil servants, feed the population, and prepare for the long term operation of the province. But at least the previous governors and bureaucracy were thoroughly corrupt and the people expect that to continue.
To top it all off, Bovaria is moving on Telaryn. This means that Bhayar needs troops and those with special abilities. He knows that he needs Quaeryt’s special imagining abilities.
This is the second book of the series detailing the adventures of Quaeryt, a hidden imager of great power, but no formal training. The action takes place hundreds of years before those of Rhennthyl, from the first trilogy. This is the time before the Solidar is consolidated. The rules and training of imagers have not been formalized, but the process is beginning. In Scholar, Quaeryt starts to link imagers and scholars. In Princeps, he leads a special squad of imagers in battle for Bhayar. The future is coming and Quaeryt will play a role in shaping that future. Readers should start with Scholar as a bare minimum.
I really like this series. The lack of formalized training forces Quaeryt to develop his talents through discovery. His raw talent is growing quickly through extensive use. Readers will tend to compare the heroes of the two Imager Portfolio series. Each has strengths and weaknesses. I personally feel that Quaeryt will be the more powerful imager at peak, while Rhenn will be more refined as he benefits from hundreds of years of refinement. In Imager fight club, Rhenn wins a set prepared battle, but in a less defined setting Quaeryt gets the edge.
Although not as well-regarded as some of the top selling genre authors L.E. Modesitt, Jr. produces some of the best fantasy novels published. His numerous series have devout fans, who keep his works in publication. Each series has a functional economic system that supports the characters’ livelihoods. They are not based on quests and claimed treasure, but hard work. I look forward to Quaeryt's continuing adventures in Imager’s Battalion and Antiagon Fire in 2013.