Review of IMAGER'S BATTALION by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, January 2013
The invasion goes well, for the most part. Quaeryt serves as sub-commander in the smaller southern army while Bhayar leads the larger northern army as both plunge deep into enemy territory. Quaeryt’s forces come under more frequent attacks and, increasingly, these attacks and ambushes seem specifically to target the imagers. Ultimately, Bhayar’s forces concentrate around the enemy capital, and Quaeryt has to draw on his magical powers to the maximum to hold off overwhelming numbers plus the powerful weapons (cannons, muskets, Greek-fire catapults, etc.) the enemy can throw into the battle.
IMAGER’S BATTALION has a lot going for it. Quaeryt, with his noble goal of ending the oppression suffered by his fellow imagers, makes for a sympathetic character. The invasion itself, with the political intrigues on Bhayar’s side, gives the story structure and provides plenty of examples of showing the non-equivalence of Bhayar’s kind rule and the needlessly cruel rule of the enemy King. And L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s writing is strong and professional (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.).
In the earlier books in this series, I disliked Quaeryt’s frequent use of assassination to deal with anyone who opposed him. I was happy to see assassination as a tool for the evil king rather than for Quaeryt in BATTALION. I also appreciate Modesitt giving us Quaeryt’s wife, Vaelora. Giving the reader someone who thinks the protagonist is wonderful is a useful tool in making the protagonist more compelling and sympathetic.
Overall, I found BATALLION engaging and hard to put down.
With all this going for it, I had hoped to give BATTALION the full 4 Stars. Ultimately, I was unable to do so. First, I wanted a little more cleverness in Modesitt’s magic system. Time after time, we have Quaeryt drawing his shields together and charging then enemy, knocking them down and making them easy prey for his fellow soldiers. Given that they’re learning to deal with imagers, wouldn’t they figure some way to oppose this? And the shields and blindness thing seems a little too similar to some of Modesitt’s Recluse stories. Second, I found the enemy kingdom’s evilness a bit too simplified. Why couldn’t Quaeryt find things he liked about the enemy? Why couldn’t he occasionally question whether he was being used, whether some other approach than proving imagers make the best soldiers would serve his people? Third, Quaeryt has always kept his imager status a secret--something that served him well as he went around Bhayar’s kingdom assassinating everyone who didn’t toe the line. Now, he lets out the secret and there are no consequences. Aren’t there those who now realize Quaeryt murdered their fathers or brothers? Aren’t there those whose fears of the imagers are enhanced by this new information? Aren’t any of Bhayar’s opponents energized by the information that the king’s brother-in-law is an admitted member of this secret group of mages? I think Modesitt needed to deal with this but instead, he simply put it out there and ignored any consequences.
Let’s bottom-line this. If you’ve been enjoying the Imager series, you’ll want to read this one. BATTALION shows Quaeryt’s continuing evolution as a character. It’s increasingly easy to see him (or his children) stepping in to fill Bhayar’s shoes if the king is to fail in the future. It’s good to see Quaeryt working with other imagers rather than being a one-man-band, especially if he wants to be seen as someone looking for the good of his people. Doing away with the too-easy assassinate anyone who gets in the way technique adds to the enjoyability of this story. I don’t recommend picking up BATTALION for anyone who isn’t already a fan of the series. The book can stand on its own but it really is part of a continuing story.
Three StarsReviewed 4/09/13
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