Book Review – Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
This is the sixth installment in American fantasy writer L.E. Modesitt’s Imager series. In it, Quaeryt continues to advance his goals of making the continent of Lydar a safe place for imagers (the magicians of this world), Pharsi (an ethnic minority), and scholars (a much maligned group of scribes and thinkers). Quareyt is a member of all three in one way or another.
Bhayar, Lord of Telaryn, considers Quaeryt a friend and a competent ally. He is also his brother-in-law, but it is mainly for his imaging abilities, loyalty, and intelligence that Bhayar makes him a subcommander in his army.
In this book, Quaeryt is nurturing a small group of other imagers who are junior officers under his command. They, and the rest of Bhayar’s army, are invading the neighboring kingdom of Bovaria, which is ruled by the ambitious and thoroughly despicable Rex Kharst.
The story is essentially a five hundred-page narrative of the military campaign that brings Bhayar’s army to the capital of Bovaria. It relates, sometimes with almost too much attention to detail, Quaeryt’s journey, his stays at inns, his consumption of lager (for mostly medicinal purposes), and the magically augmented scouting missions, engineering efforts, skirmishes, and battles in which he is involved.
Modesitt’s strength is his world building. The setting has a solid feel, as if it might really be able to exist in some alternate reality with slightly different physical laws. The magic system used is interesting. It’s not just wand waving and reciting bits of mock-Latin. There is some effort to maintain the basic principle of conservation of energy, although in this book I thought this was being stretched by instances of impressive dirt shifting and bridge building. Any details on those would involve spoilers, though, so I’ll say no more about them — or about the ending, which I thought could have benefited from a final confrontation with Kharst.
The prose, however, is unexceptional. The writing is serviceable but not elegant. It certainly isn’t beautiful. There are few, if any, instances of clever word play or poetic imagery, and there is no attempt at humor. The characters are stiff, formal, and their dialog is comparable to that in the old TV series ‘Dragnet.’
There are also no grand ideas floating beneath the surface. The book conveys no deep, philosophical insights and little by way of social commentary. Quaeryt is portrayed as being less prejudiced, more considerate, and more intelligent than most other characters in the book, which places him on the moral high ground and which is why the reader cares about him and his success.
I would not call this a great book, but it is engaging enough to keep you entertained for a few evenings. If you’ve read the others, you’ll want to read this one. I did, and I’ll probably read the next.
Related Post: Book Review – Princeps by L.E. Modesitt Jr.