What looks like a crisp morning near the river with wispy clouds, is really remnants of a meteor just eighteen minutes after exploding in the atmosphere over Russia. Already, most of the world, has forgotten the incident, but this gorgeous picture lingers on.
It reminds me of my next book: the picture is pretty, but the reality is frightening. I put off starting the Imager series up until now. Even though I like Modesitte and have read his other series, I hesitated because of the title and the cover image. I feel that Modesitte made a mistake in his title, for if I’d known that Imager was essentially a story about a magician, and a magician who becomes a detective and spy, I might have read it sooner.
Anyone who has read his other novels, knows that Modesitte is a more intellectual and political writer. He starts off low key and bit by bit builds his stories. He’s not page turning action, but he builds an interesting story that if you can wade through the details, suddenly you’re startled as you realize what is really happening.
Rhennthyl, (yes the names are off putting) is the son of a leading wool merchant in a world very much like Venice’s Renaissance. To his father’s disappointment, he has decided to be a journeyman portrait painter and now studies under Master Caliostrus. His paintings are exceptional but he still has two years of training until becoming a Master Portraitist under an exasperating instructor. As he paints, he notices that at times he only has to imagine the paint to shade a certain way or be a certain color and it happens. Rhenn is intrigued, but discounts the phenomenon.
Then one day in a fit of temper, after being unfairly chastised, he imagines both Caliostrus and his worthless son being consumed by an explosion of paraffin heated too hot on a studio stove. The resulting fire and explosion frightens Rhenn into suspecting that he is a rare breed of talent called an Imager. With Caliostrus now dead, he discovers that no other studio will take him on.
Rhenn’s only choice is to appeal to the Collegium of Imagisle that takes in and trains Imagers. An Imager is one who only has to imagine a certain thing and it happens. He is given a mentor named Master Dichartyn who trains spies and undercover agents. known Imagers live at the Collegium as a safeguard from doing damage by imaging in their sleep and possibly as a collection point.
After stopping a bully, who is the son of a powerful Highholder, Rhenn makes enemies. Soon, someone is trying to kill Rhenn every time he leaves the college. Only quick wit and raw skill save him at first. He learns to make an invisible shield for protection and has to shield himself wherever he goes. Still he’s attacked and seriously hurt several times. He decides to investigate and try to find out who’s attacking him.
Rhenn goes through training at the college and is assigned as a guard and undercover spy at the Capitol building. It slowly becomes apparent how many attempted assassinations are tried against various politicians and how often the Imagers thwart these actions by their own subtle means. Gradually, as the story progresses, the reader begins to realize how powerful Imagers are. They can kill just by blocking an artery of a person and make it look like he died of natural causes.
At an important ball, Rhenn dispatches one assassin by having him slip on ice and crack his head on the stairs as he leaves. The Imagers are told to make any deaths look accidental so they will not be blamed and scare people. Still, they are required to wear a gray outfit that make them recognizable and they are feared by most of the citizens who realize that they can kill with a thought.
Slowly the story weaves magic and mystery with romance. Rhenn meets a charming, smart woman and love blooms. Gradually, he discovers that he is not the only young Imager being attacked, but others have been killed and he proceeds to try to discover who is murdering young Imagers.
In spite of the ridiculous names, I got drawn into the story. As an artist myself, I enjoyed the trials Rhenn endured as a journeyman portrait painter. The conversations and classes on imaging with Dichartyn, his mentor, at the Collegium were also believable and interesting. In a lot of fantasy, magic is portrayed with flashing lights or amazing acts, but Rhenn’s magic is very subtle. A piece of ice in the right place, imaging a drop of acid in an eyeball to blind…It makes his power frightening and you begin to see why someone might want Imagers dead.
I didn’t understand why Rhenn, as a young and fairly inexperienced Imager, is often on his own to defend himself from attacks. Dichartyn puts the young Rhenn out to track down the college’s enemies with little instruction or protection while he appears absorbed by college politics and unknown activities.
I did like the detail of Rhenn’s life because it made it more believable. Many times books on training mages skip over the reality in their lives and how they learn their magic. While I like this, many reader may want to leap into action immediately and become impatient with the minutiae of Rhenn’s daily life.
Get ready. My new cover is in (see here) and the next exciting adventure in my series will come out soon.
Richard Steele receives a warning that hostile alien are planning to attack Alysia. As he prepares his world against alien attack, he uncovers a long held secret operation that involves mixing human and alien genetics. Explosive events and action happen as Richard tries to overcome politics, juggle a romance, build a space station and solve a genetic conspiracy.