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Princeps by L. E. Modesitt – Book Read Part 1
I am about two-fifths of the way through Princeps, the newest book in L. E. Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio and the sequel to Scholar. As with that book, I’m going to be blog-along reading rather than offering a strict review only after I have finished the book. It’s just more fun for me that way.
So the book is not merely a sequel but a direct sequel, by which I mean, the story picks up pretty much right where Scholar left off. We skipped about six weeks of Quaeryt and Vaelora being newlyweds and Quaeryt doing boring administrative work in Tilbor, and that is it for the time lapse between the end of the last book and the start of this one.
The copywriting on the inside flap is laughably brief; to me it is clear this is a book for people who are already reading the series, because that description is not likely to draw in new readers. It’s there to give series readers a slight idea of the story direction before they jump into it, since Modesitt tends to unfold stories slowly.
That is the case here, with what I recall as being a good 50 pages of life in Tilbor before the real story begins, which is what happens when Quaeryt and Vaelora are sent to another province to be the new governors after a devastating volcanic eruption. The larger plot has probably had a few threads laid down already, but I’m not far enough into the story to see how everything will come together or what will ultimately be the biggest conflict of the book. We have encountered proof that the last governor was corrupt, that the local High Holders are invested in being as contrary and quarrelsome as they can get away with, and that rebuilding in the wake of a disaster has to be handled very, very carefully.
So far Quaerty has been up to the challenge, which is no less than I expect of him. He’s also continuing to hone and expand his imaging abilities, and beginning to develop a reputation for himself as being possibly touched by the divine since his imaging is a secret and thus he is surrounded by improbable escapes, extreme strokes of luck, and inexplicable events.
The dynamic between Vaelora and Quaeryt is quite different from that between Rhenn and Seloria in the first Imager trilogy. Much is made about the fact that Vaelora is Lord Bhayar’s sister, and in some ways that status has created a power imbalance in their relationship. To some extent they joke about how he must “always respect” her, but there have been moments where her birth and status have definitely been on display in what she expects of him and their life together. That’s actually not a criticism of the written relationship dynamic, as it strikes me as being pretty realistic. It’s just a way of engaging with the world that is foreign to me as, well, let’s be honest, not a princess…. I am glad to see that Modesitt is including some degree of personal conflict, or at least adjustment for them. That keeps Vaelora from simply being a side-thought, which so far she kind of has been. I look forward to her creating events at some point instead of merely assisting Quaeryt in dealing with events others created.
Cover thoughts…I have mixed feelings about this cover. Of all the Imager Portfolio covers, the only one that made me stop and look twice at the book was the very first one, of Rhenn painting, on the cover of Imager. I have found the rest of the art to be suited to the books but not as eye-catching. This image is a little more eye-catching, but it makes me a little bit uncomfortable because of the allegorical Jesus element. Feeding the masses with one loaf of bread? Wow. That was ballsy. It also makes me wonder if that depiction hints at something still to come in Quaeryt’s character. Much is made in the books of his being very much an agnostic; he actively questions whether any godlike figure exists and believes that even if one does, it will not care what his morality or behavior is. However, he is both gaining a reputation due to unacknowledged imaging and is repeatedly told that he would make an excellent chorister (clergyman), which is a source of distress for him as he feels like a fraud and a hypocrite, inspiring faith in others which he himself does not feel. Does this imply that he will be seen as a saintlike figure or a prophet? A Redeemer? Or was everyone on the art direction team so far removed from religious implications of our world that no one questioned the frame? I mean, something like this seems impossible to have been done by accident, but…I don’t know their lives, as the saying goes. Anyway. That was a long way of saying, the cover catches the eye but also brings up references and associations that confuse me a bit.
So far I’m enjoying the events even though I don’t know enoug h of the big plot to say I’m enjoying the story. Quaeryt continues to be pretty hard-core and ruthless when he needs to be. I both love that he has the conviction to simply act instead of dithering about the moral dilemma and wasting time and opportunities hand-wringing; on the other hand, I wonder if at some point this will become his downfall, his readiness to act. After all, he is going into politics….
To sum up first impressions, I will just go with: up to my expectations for an immediate sequel. I’ll keep you updated as I read more.