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Princeps by L. E. Modesitt – Book Read Part 2
I am now about 2/3 of the way through this book, and I am beginning to think it is suffering from Middle Book Syndrome (MBS)–that is, where the middle book of a trilogy exists primarily to move the characters from where they start to where they need to be for the grand finale and lacks much character or story of its own. The kind of middle book whose story relies on the first and third books in the trilogy to validate its existence. The second book in Rhenn’s trilogy didn’t feel this way; in those, the third felt more like an epilogue to a duology. But MBS is hardly a phenomenon unique to this trilogy.
So what else has happened since I last blogged about my reading of this book?
Quaeryt and Vaelora have continued to restore order to the volcano-ravaged capital city. He has more or less gotten the situation under control, except he has done so on the back of an army that Lord Bhayar has already ordered to move on within weeks. Now he’s in a race against time to get the engineering projects complete and a competent civic patrol established.
He’s also had more adventures with the corruption inherent in the system…justicers and patrollers who took bribes and abused their power, and the persecution of honest ones until they left their positions. Part of his problem with getting the city back on its feet is finding honest people he can trust to take over those roles, not to mention restoring public trust in the institutions.
He’s met with more High Holders and rich factors to cement his position as the governor, with mixed results. Much of his authority still derives from his being married to Lord Bhayar’s sister. The one action Quaeryt has directly taken to exercise his own power was problematic for me: imaging to death an old High Holder who wouldn’t meet his terms. I understood why Quaeryt felt he needed to do it; the killing him per se was not what bothered me. What bothered me is that it felt like a cop-out on Quaeryt’s part, that it was easier to just kill someone who disobeyed him and do it in such a way that it looked like an accident…that Quaeryt made him so angry he had a heart attack or an apoplexy. I feel like there should have been a way for him to impose his power as the governor and a representative of Bhayar, publicly, to prove his point. Killing the man in private was expeditious but it did not solve the bigger problem of how to convince someone to accept his rule who did not want to be ruled by him.
Vaelora has turned out to be a less interesting character that I had hoped. Her arc for the middle section has been to play entitled little princess and insist on better quarters and proper furnishings. I kind of understand why she needs and wants those things, but I find it hard to relate to her need to have them NOW. I mean maybe it’s just that she has nothing else to do. Fine. But if that’s her motivation I don’t think she should spend time whining about how terrible her present accommodations are.
I am still not sure what, if anything, the bigger plot is going to be in this one. I don’t know if it will involve uncovering some giant conspiracy from the last governor or if Quaeryt will have to subdue a rebellion of Holders/factors/city-folk after the army leaves, or if the book won’t in the end have much plot to it besides Life After Volcano.
I’m still enjoying it, but feeling somewhat adrift herei n the middle. Let’s hope the last third or so pulls everything together for me!