Review of SCHOLAR by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE IMAGER PORTFOLIO
Tor, November 2011
A scholar is always asking questions. When scholar Quaeryt asks the King Bhayer too many questions, Bhayar sends him north, to Tilbor, the nation conquered by Bhayer's father but never fully pacified. Bhayer has a question, too... why is it that Tilbor continues to be a drain on the treasury? As Quaeryt prepares to to leave, he's approached by Bhayer's beautiful sister with questions of her own.
Quaeryt's journey is eventful. First, he lands in a city where scholars are hunted down and exterminated. When he finally reaches a ship, he's shipwrecked and threatened by wreckers. Finally arriving in Tilbor, he discovers that the local scholars have an agenda of their own... as does, apparently, just about everyone else. Unfortunately for Quaeryt, just about every one of those agenda would be better served if he just happened to die.
Although he keeps his talent closely hidden, Quaeryt is an imager--a man with the ability to reassemble whatever's around him to match his imagination. When he realizes he's become a target, Quaeryt learns to use his talent in a new way, to image the air around him into shields.
Author L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of speculative fiction by Modesitt) continues his imager series with an intriguing fantasy adventure. Modesitt is an always-capable writer and SCHOLAR is a page-turner with Quaeryt bouncing from disaster to disaster, surviving by his wits, his newly discovered shields, and his cheerful murderousness. Indeed, I found this cheerful murderousness somewhat offputting. It seemed to me that, no matter what the situation, Quaeryt was quick to use his imager talents to kill. Whether it was imaging bread in a thief's windpipe, poison in a powerful official, or heart stoppages in enemy hill holders, there didn't seem to be any problems that couldn't be solved by the careful application of murder. Sure Quaeryt was often under attack, and the killings could generally be characterized as self-defense. Still, I can't believe I was the only reader who didn't wish that a scholar couldn't find a solution that was clever, that relied on his intellect, and that left the victim smarter rather than deader.
I'm a fan of Modesitt's work and, as noted, find his writing to be enjoyable. SCHOLAR had a lot going for it but I did wish that Quaeryt had looked for solutions other than murder... and that he suffered at least some guilt when he'd discovered no alternative.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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