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Imager Portfolio #2

Imager's Challenge

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Imager€™s Challenge takes up immediately after the conclusion of Imager. Still recovering from injuries received in foiling the plots of the Ferran envoy, Rhenn is preparing to take up his new duties as imager liaison to the Civic Patrol of L€™Excelsis. No sooner has he assumed his new position than he discovers two things. First, the Commander of the Civic Patrol doesn€™t want a liaison from the infamous Collegium, and soon has Rhenn patrolling the streets of the worst district in the city. Second, Rhenn receives formal notice that one of the High Holders, the father of a man Rhenn partly blinded in self-defense, has declared his intention to destroy Rhenn and his family. Rhenn€™s only allies are the family of the girl he loves, successful merchants with underworld connections. In the end, Rhenn must literally stand off against gang lords, naval marines, Tiempran terrorist priests, the most powerful High Holder in all of Solidar, a

464 pages, Hardcover

First published October 12, 2009

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About the author

L.E. Modesitt Jr.

186 books2,367 followers
L. E. (Leland Exton) Modesitt, Jr. is an author of science fiction and fantasy novels. He is best known for the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, lived in Washington, D.C. for 20 years, then moved to New Hampshire in 1989 where he met his wife. They relocated to Cedar City, Utah in 1993.

He has worked as a Navy pilot, lifeguard, delivery boy, unpaid radio disc jockey, real estate agent, market research analyst, director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant for a Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer and writer in residence.
In addition to his novels, Mr. Modesitt has published technical studies and articles, columns, poetry, and a number of science fiction stories. His first short story, "The Great American Economy", was published in 1973 in Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 193 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
January 2, 2022
While this is a good continuation of the first Imager book, it doesn't have the charm of the youth and ignorance of the previous book. He's strong, constantly getting into trouble but never too much that he can't weasel out of, but he *is* a major thorn in all of his superior's sides. That part is fun, but not quite as fun as before.

On the other hand, the writing is still extremely familiar and comforting and I have no compunctions about continuing on with great verve.

I'm an addict.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,027 reviews163 followers
June 7, 2021
This is a slow-burn story where the world is meticulously planned out in every detail. It’s a story of characters more than anything. We have our hero, Rhenn, now a Master Imager. Throughout this book, every meal he eats and every glass of wine is described in full detail with a full critique. I give you Rhenn, Restaurant Critic:

Rhenn is assigned to work with the local police force. He discovers corruption while getting to know the people in his assigned patrol area. These are second-class citizens called Towdys, ruled by Towdy Chefs. (It turns out they aren’t real chefs. I think I got the spelling wrong; I listened to the audio, and too many of these names sound French.) I think they’re immigrants or something; I kind of zoned out a lot at the beginning.

Rhenn also has to deal with his arch nemesis, Ryell, and the Collegium basically tells him it’s his problem and they won’t help him. All this makes Rhenn feel isolated, so how long before he takes matters into his own hands? And how far will he go for revenge or justice?

One pleasant surprise here is the romance. It’s such a normal, healthy, mature relationship. It’s shocking, I know. No angst, no keeping secrets, no stupid misunderstandings.

I expect this story to be too slow for some readers, but others will love it. I’m kind of in the middle. I recommend starting with the first book, but you could probably start here and be fine.

Language: Clean
Sexual Content: None
Violence: Moderate but not graphic
Harm to Animals:
Harm to Children:
Other (Triggers):
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
February 17, 2016
Originally Reviewed Aug. 2010
Updated Feb. 2016

This is I believe an exceptional series (for brain candy that is) and I'm enjoying it immensely. I considered going down to 4 stars on this one as it probably hit 4.5 rather than a full five in some ways... but in the end decided that for "enjoyment factor" it gets a 5.

I will mention a couple of "niggling flaws" in a moment below a spoiler warning, but they are tiny. Overall, (as said) a good book. We follow the adventures of "our hero" through the trials and tribulations of being a (now master) Imager. He is after events in the first book, so public a figure (something in itself that Imagers try to avoid)that he must do "something else" other than what he'd been doing, so what might that be? Why Liaison with the Patrol of course... as you can imagine, things don't stay calm on the "Patroler" front for long.

More of Modesitt's solid writing here, characters who stay true to themselves in a well crafted world.


I like the book, the series, and have the third reserved at the library. Hope it gets "processed" quickly. :)

I ended up buying it...couldn't wait.
Profile Image for D.w..
Author 14 books24 followers
April 13, 2013
As with the first book in the series, LE Modesitt has become too verbose for his own good. Why do I need to know every time the main character eats what he is eating, and what fictitious wine is best paired with it?

Things take far too long to develop and in a cliched way as well. At this stage, you want to finish the series but desperately wish that Modesitt would write tight and forget the BS that he has laced the tale with.

Now his works are becoming all rather the same. Meet Hero. He has failed (remember in Recluce almost every hero is cast out to go find themselves) He must choose a new path that he will master and become the best at. This journey is slow and sure, steady, but in the end rewarding.

It is what we are seeing here. Perhaps it is time to think of a new formula.

Slightly better than average. It would be much better if it was 2/3rds the length which would have been easily done. More Action. Less BS.

This series will be a never again because of all the pages that you rush over, that have little value to the tale, the plot, the theme.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,027 followers
March 16, 2017
March 2017 review: Definitely a 4 star read. Rhenn is in several tough spots & must work his way out of them without leaving any evidence or gaining publicity, if he can. He's powerful, but there are even more powerful limiting factors. As usual, Modesitt's thoughtful writing wrings every last bit of intrigue & suspense out of his very well drawn world & characters. Even though it was the first nice day we've had in a while, I had to put off riding Chip & plain skipped some chores so I could finish this.

Highly recommended, but do read them in order. While they're self-contained, the growth of the magic system & characters really requires sequential reading. On to the nextImager's Intrigue

June 2014 review: I first read this about 5 years ago when it came out & gave it 3 stars. I'm bumping it up to 4 stars. Modesitt weaves a great mystery through his unique magical fantasy world. It's very realistic in many ways as it explores balances of power, money, influence, & public perceptions. Power certainly comes in many forms & isn't the panacea it is in simpler novels. The method of magic, imaging, is uniquely handled & the growth of the main character is excellent.

This book should definitely be read after the first, if you possibly can. He fills in a bit, but the situation & character growth won't come across nearly as well. This world is every bit as complex as his Recluce series with a similar, if slightly higher level of technology. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jon.
833 reviews253 followers
January 30, 2010
2.75 stars

This new series by Modesitt is just not striking a chord with me, not like the Recluse Saga or the Spellsong Cycle did. I kept reading because I wanted to discover what happened, but not because I cared about Rhenn or any of the other characters. In that respect, it read more like a mystery rather than a character driven fantasy novel. And I still don't care for the magic system, which masquerades as psychic powers rather than something wondrous.

If Modesitt set out to make a social or political statement with this series, I'm not sure he's succeeding. Since the story is told in the first person (through Rhenn's eyes only), I'm only getting Rhenn's perception of the world and how his life is affected (negatively as far as he's concerned according to his monologues). Of course, he relates his conversations and debates with his peers, colleagues and mentors (often didactically for the latter). Some of the paradigms I can agree with or at least relate to.

I'm not feeling compelled to continue this series after reading this second installment.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book139 followers
December 13, 2018
“I’m being pushed into doing things I’d rather not do because the alternatives are worse.” “Sometimes, that’s life.”

Better than the first Imager story. First person point of view makes for a decidedly linear plot, but the action moves better in this second episode. This volume lacks the epigrams which headed each chapter in Imager.

“What we do … is not all that we are, nor all that we could be. Reading opens one’s eyes to the possibilities.”

Modesitt takes us into the musings of someone who follows the tenets of a religion he doubts, defends a country he’s sure isn’t perfect, loves people who are flawed, and represents a body of people even as he disagrees with its leaders.

“No matter what you do, someone’s unhappy. And the better you do it, the more who are displeased.”

The protagonist’s voice is introspective, but too serious. Given his situation, he could/should easily--and entertainingly--be snarky.

“If those who decide the rules and prices have nothing at stake, they will adopt rules and laws that will take from those who have and give to themselves, and they will pay little or no price at all.”

Lots of social and political philosophizing with slightly less preaching. Modesitt uses “elveweed” as an analog for marijuana and cocaine, perhaps emphasizing the problems with legalizing use. On the other hand, we get it, Rhenn “wasn’t even sure [he] believed in the nameless.” Once or twice per book would have sufficed.

“Everyone around a powerful imager paid when the imager failed to see or to anticipate what he should have. The costs fell … most heavily on those closest and those who could not protect themselves.”
Profile Image for Lianne Pheno.
1,217 reviews69 followers
September 29, 2018

Dans Imager Portofolio, nous suivions Rhennthyl un jeune homme, fils de manufacturier qui décide de se lancer dans le métier de portraitiste dans un monde qui tient beaucoup de l'Europe de la Renaissance dans laquelle les armes à feu existeraient déjà. Carrière qu'il doit abandonner quand il s'aperçoit qu'il peut manipuler la matière mentalement, une forme de magie appelée "Imaging". Le voici donc dans le Collegium des Imager à apprendre comment s'en servir sans se tuer accidentellement. En parallèle il rencontre Seloria une jeune femme appartenant à la minorité des Pharsi, un peuple assez mal vu car on leur prête des talents magiques comme celui de Farsight, pouvoir deviner l'avenir. Rhen finissait par mettre à jour une tentative d'assassinat sur les membres du conseil du pays.

Ce tome ci reprend l'histoire juste après. Rhen a été muté dans la garde civile de la ville pour l'éloigner de ceux qui pourraient lui vouloir du mal suite à l’attentat manqué. Mais ça ne l'éloigne pas du danger pour autant, car en plus de ça il a mit en colère un des nobles les plus puissants quand il était au Collégium en s'opposant à son fils qui menait la vie dure à tout le monde.
Il se met à subir un nombre important de tentatives d'assassinat qui le rendent très impopulaire dans la garde civile, sans parler du fait que certains officiers de la garde sont corrompu et voient d'un mauvais œil l'arrivée d'un Imager dans leurs rangs ...

Le Collegium voit en fait cette mutation comme une façon d'éloigner Rhen de la notoriété. En fait le politiquement le Collegium a toujours su se faire oublier et c'est sa façon de survivre dans ce monde ou en général les Imagers sont plus brûlés vifs qu’accueillit à bras ouverts. Du coup leur survie tient du fait qu'ils ne se font pas remarquer, semble inoffensifs et ne s'impliquent pas ouvertement dans la politique.
Mais les actions de Rhen ont eu de telles conséquences que ça remet ce statu quo en jeu. Du coup sa mutation était plus une façon de le parquer à un endroit ou il ne pourrait pas créer de problème.

En gros Rhen se retrouve vraiment au cœur du mécontentement général dans ce tome, tout les couteaux sont pointés vers lui. Mais le pire c'est qu'il ne s'en rend pas vraiment compte parce que pour lui il a fait la bonne chose en empêchant un attentat. Il a un coté idéaliste et il veut faire ce qu'il juge bien. Dans ce tome il commence à comprendre tout ce que cela implique et que ce n'est pas parce qu'on ne remarque pas quelque chose que ça n'existe pas. Des fois on a l'impression que ce que Rhen apprend au Collégium est assez cynique, c'est une façon de voir le monde assez sombre et du coup ça fait vraiment un contraste avec le coté enthousiaste et ouvert de celui ci.

L'ambiance de ce tome est vraiment similaire au précédent mais un peu plus active, chose que j'ai bien apprécié. Rhen a en effet pas mal de choses sur le dos et il doit jongler avec les différentes menaces présentes dans sa vie. Heureusement il n'est pas sans alliés, surtout dans la personne de Seloria et de sa famille qui finalement se retrouvent être la branche à laquelle il se raccroche lors qu'il ne sait plus quoi faire. J'ai vraiment apprécié de découvrir cette famille plus en détail. Au final elle devient plus la famille de Rhen que sa vrai famille qu'il voit beaucoup moins.

Franchement j'aime beaucoup cette série pour l'instant. Certes on est loin de la fantasy d'action mais le monde est richement décrit, complexe et surtout bien nuancé. On en apprend encore à tout les points de vue dans ce tome. Le mélange du coté visuel Renaissance avec le coté industriel qui lui se rapproche plus de la fin du 19ième siècle marche vraiment bien et lui donne un coté unique.

J'aime bien aussi le fait que l'intrigue ne se déroule pas en quelques jours. Ici les journées se succèdent des fois sans qu'il se passe la moindre chose. D'un coté ça diffuse un peu la tension mais d'un autre coté ça rend la chose pour réaliste. On est très loin d'un thriller ou les événements s’enchaînent à n'en plus finir. Et pourtant on ne s'ennuie pas, l'action est bien répartie sur l'ensemble du livre et il ne se passe pas un chapitre sans changement.

Je crois que je suis en train de développer une petite addiction à cette série car rien que d'en écrire la chronique me donne vraiment envie de commencer le suivant. Bref, pour moi c'est vraiment une réussite, tout à fait le style de fantasy que j'apprécie.

Profile Image for Fredrick Danysh.
6,844 reviews158 followers
October 21, 2020
In this, the second book in the Imager series, Rhenn is assigned to the Civil Patrol as an observer in order to acquaint him with the consequences of his actions. He also receives formal notice that a High Holder if out to destroy him and his family. His courtship of Seliora evolves. Full of action and intrigue.
Profile Image for Vixie.
58 reviews
October 28, 2017
L.E. Modesitt, Jr has done it again. An exquisite sequel to the first book of the series, Imager and I am pleased to say that I was hooked from the first page to the very last.

Rhennthyl is an amazingly written character. In truth words cannot express the way Rhenn 'thinks' or speaks. He is the type of man who is both admired and feared in equal measure, by other characters and by his readers. Able to understand or eventually interpret information he is given by intuition, 'Imaging' and 'Farsight', this character has an intellect and independence that many would and should envy. Although to many characters, including his tutor he is too hot-headed and quick to act but to the reader that makes him all the more relatable since he is an individual working against multiple systems. He is one against many, seemingly alone and abandoned and forced to face a threat with little knowledge and no one he can truly trust.

But before I go in depth about Rhennthyl I feel it is important to set the scene, but hopefully without revealing too much to those who have yet to read this novel.

Rhennthyl has recently become a Master, mostly because his actions have brought too much attention to himself, meaning he is all but useless for covert operations. Too many know he is an Imager, courtesy of his courageous actions and quick thinking in book one of the 'Imager Portfolio' series. Since he is a known Imager his duties have shifted from the covert to the more visual aspects of an Imager interacting with the rest of society. In Rhenn's case this means working with the Civic Patrol. Much like the police force of modern society, the Civic Patrol deals with much of the civil unrest, from druggies, to attempted rapes and murders, hate crimes, racism and so on and so forth. It is with the hopes of getting Rhenn to be more modest with his powers and his judgements that he is made to join the Civic Patrol, but as we know from the previous novel this is not how Rhenn operates. Rhenn cannot be backtracked, slowed or belittled easily, he overthinks and more often than not his deductions are right or close to the truth. His cunning and innate intuition are what make Rhenn an incredible and dangerous character, as the members of the Civic Patrol find out throughout this amazing sequel to Imager.

Perhaps the most vital and integral part of this book is not Rhenn but those who support him through the terrible situations he's been forced into by politics. With no knowledge of who is friend or foe, his love interest Seliora and her family turn out to be remarkably indispensable. Though those who read the first book in the series will not be surprised to know this or to find out how when they read this book, nor do I think it a spoiler to reveal this since she is obviously a very honest and supportive character within the first book of the series. Seliora is Rhenn's grounding force, the woman who keeps this powerful man human when at times he feels he is being pulled into chaotic waters by a strong, unescapable tide. She is both the voice of reason and of humility when Rhenn missteps, which admittedly is rare considering his habit of considering his every action and words. I admit I envied his control at times, for few could take on what he must and remained calm and in control.

What I find most exciting and attention holding about this book was the sheer word play. The author alternates between political ploys, powerplays and action with an ease I admired. One moment Rhenn was learning and competing through conversations to learn who was friend and foe, or to learn how far he could go before being reprimanded and the next he was using both his physical prowess, cunning and imaging abilities to defend himself and those around him. And yet, what endears Rhenn to me most of all is his modesty. He is potentially one of the most powerful Imager’s there, his power so great it has attracted notice, and yet not once does he think himself superior to any other. Everything he does is for the safety of others, never for control or influence. And yet when he receives notice for his skills he is humbled and stunned by his apparent influence and power. If only the world could learn from characters such as this, for men to see women as equals, for leaders to consider the people they lead instead of the power they possess and earn with each action they take, perhaps the world would be a better place.

But alas, even in this world of fiction, a good character must go to war to be given the freedom he and those he loves should rightly have. As was addressed in the first of the series, Rhenn has no right of inheritance, as an Imager he loses these rights because his power is dangerous, potentially capable of killing those he loved should he not manage his abilities responsibly. And as we have seen in both books one and two, Rhenn is quite capable of doing what he must, going far beyond what many ‘experts’ believe is possible. Rhenn may not inherit anything or be able to live an ordinary life, but one thing he influences without his full awareness is the reputation of his peers and himself through his actions. And this is addressed thoroughly within book 2 as it brings into question Rhenn’s actions and the actions of the Collegium.

This book brings into question the limitations of influence. When does influence corrupt or prevent justice being done? This is a double-edged sword, of course, because without influence one has no power and power affects the laws and morals of a society. A government is elected because it has influence and is then given power, when that Government is in power it leads the morality or legality of a society, should the elected officials choose they can either improve or damage a society, either the one they rule or a neighbouring ally/enemy country/state. As such Rhenn, our hero and powerful ‘nobody’ is faced with the issue of having to contend with having a lot of power and influence on some occasions and then having very little of either on others. There is the very obvious question of what is right and wrong, how many lives can be sacrificed for the ‘greater good’ (so to speak) but the most pressing question is the question of morality. More often than not Rhenn is trapped between his own concept of morality and that of the organisations he is surrounded by, mainly the Collegium and the Council.

This is very much a story about one man going against impossible odds. Each chapter Rhenn is faced with challenges, some are simple tests of knowledge and understanding but others are more serious in nature bringing into question everything Rhenn thinks he understands. And each chapter I couldn’t help but feel for this character as he is forced to endure, to learn or to fail. Of course, had Rhenn been any other man he’d have fallen within the first couple of chapters in book one. But despite his power and sheer will and endurance the author has made Rhenn a relatable character, something that can be extremely difficult with such a powerful and intellectual character. Yes, he has his arrogance but it is not the arrogance of a man who believes he owns everything he sees or touches, but the arrogance of a man who has a beautiful woman on his arm and an awareness of his abilities, and vitally important, the awareness of how to control said abilities. Overall, however, the author has done a superb job of creating an incredibly believable world of politics and religion, creating both the intricate power play between organisations and the interactions of the characters within the novel. Although some characters are met just briefly, the author manages to convey their intent and words in a believable way creating not a short and sudden interaction but casual passing-by or explosive interactions between key organisations and characters.

Not once was I bored, for his words hooked me and the story trapped me until the very end. I had to know more and now I am eager to continue reading the series. I was invested in Rhenn’s character from book one and this sequel has only cemented my interest in him and his fellow characters of the ‘Imager Portfolio’ series. In fact, I am excited to read the third book, to see the result of book one and two and to see how Rhenn’s character continues to grow despite the odds against him. In fact, this book has cemented L.E. Modesitt, Jr as a favourite author and I will definitely be recommending his Imager Portfolio series!
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
890 reviews109 followers
November 5, 2009
In the first novel in this series, Rhenn, the Imager, and title character has learned about his powers and has been indoctrinated into the Collegium, the group of Imagers who live on Imagisle in the land of Solidar. Modesitt spent a lot of time exploring philosophy, law, and the limits of power, to my mind too much time, but the character is interesting and the magic itself of imagining a new realty or new things is pretty neat magic.

In this second book, the stakes are higher for Rhenn. He has now been raised to a Master Imager and High Holder Ryel, one of the most powerful nobles in the land is seeking revenge against Rhenn because Rhenn caused the blinding of his oldest son. Ryel, uses his economic might and allies to attack, not only Rhenn, but also Rhenn's family, who are unknowing of the blood feud going on around them because the Collegium has told Rhenn that they cannot get involved in an individual's struggles with a High Holder. The Collegium apparently got involved once before in a power struggle and as a result many Imagers died, many High Holders died and the form of the nation was almost destroyed so there is an agreement that the Collegium will not act.

That leaves it for Rhenn to act on his own, but also secretly so that no connection can be made between his acts and those of the Collegium. And Modesitt telegraphs very early on in the story how Rhenn will accomplish his purpose.

Meanwhile, Rhenn's day job with the Civic Patrollers also presents problems. The Patrollers (which we would call the police) patrol the taudis areas, which are run by Gangs. Rhenn has befriended on of the Taudischief's Horazt, who's son is now a very young Imager. Rhenn, besides being a very powerful Imager also has flashes of foresight.

The middle of the book concerns how Rhenn uses his connections with Horazt and his foresight to aid the capture of a Taudischief, help the Tuadis with the Navy's conscription of taudis people with less bloodshed and thwart the plot of foreign agents.

This could have been interesting and exciting but basically it was humdrum and slightly boring. Modesitt starts chapters often with breakfast for Rhenn where he meets other Masters who either impart lessons on government or the use of power or fawn over his girlfriend. Modisett also has Rhenn paint pictures of two of the more powerful Imagers who also talk to Rhenn about the use of power. I do not think I have ever read a book where so much was made over what the character had for breakfast.

At times the novel reads more like a diary of the events in Rhenn's life. Modisett's point that Rhenn has to act and kill to save others is well played but the telling is long very long.

Good Character, Good Plot, Long Book
August 16, 2019
I wasn't a huge fan of the first book but I hoped the story would gain momentum in the second installment. The first book was full of superfluous information and this has not changed. I love and appreciate extensive world building, but I do not need a lengthy description of food every time a character sits down to eat. The meal descriptions are borderline offensive in their opulence. Granted, this story is about classism, and I'm assuming this is why lengthy meal descriptions proliferate all the books in this series, but it feels insulting and is definitely unnecessary. But, is this story about the horrors of elitism and classism? I was under the impression that this was the direction it was going but, if so, it takes far too long to get there. In the meantime, I'm left with a privileged and powerful character who interacts with other privileged and powerful characters at the expense of the unfortunate and underserved.
Profile Image for N Islam.
250 reviews7 followers
March 19, 2015
I just finished 15% of this book. I couldn't take it anymore. Every menial detail is talked about, stuff that you probably don't care about. I thought that after the first book was done, we'd get into the real fun of it, but we don't.

The fact of that matter is, imaging seems to be merely there for convenience or to make this novel a fantasy novel. Imagers are pretty pointless people, who can do little other than copy things and make shields. The romance here is getting to the point of annoying, because they're always kissing, there's always food, there's always talk of the most boring crap you could think about.

I've had enough. The dialogue feels too long winded, the descriptions although apt, are superfluous on many occasions. Rhen's attention to detail is important, but its gone overboard.
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews256 followers
March 22, 2021

Yay for libraries! I enjoyed my re-read of #2. =)

I thought the plot in this one was dragged out in odd directions but the sub-plot lines were great and kept me engaged. Lots of great hints for what is to come. I also appreciated the subjective viewpoints of how you can see yourself vs others on various situations within the story.
Profile Image for Metaphorosis.
716 reviews54 followers
January 23, 2021
2.5 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews

Already established as a master Imager, Rhennthyl must begin to figure out his place in the Imagers' Collegium, as well as how to protect himself and his family from a vengeful noble the Collegium wants nothing to do with.

I liked the first book in this series, Imager, and on the strength of that, bought many of the rest in one go. At the time, my theory was that Modesitt was consistent within a series, so if the first book was good, the rest would be as well. That was before I’d delved into the latest Recluce books (many of which I also bought in one go), and found that the spell had broken. I’ve found the latest Recluce books – about a mage turned reluctant law enforcer – to be a hard slog. I was disappointed, then, to find that in this second Imager book Rhenn is a mage turned reluctant law enforcer. It’s not as tedious as the recent Recluce books, but it’s very similar – an almost diary-like recounting of quotidian events, buffered with vague, portentous conversation.

Common across many of Modesitt’s books is the desire and need of the protagonists to be schooled by wise elders who make broad statements which the protagonist then examines at length for the treasure they must contain. In Recluce, I previously found it charming. Now, it’s wearing on me. There’s not a conversation that goes by in which Rhenn doesn’t modestly accept correction from friends and acquaintances. Yet, in this book, that humble acceptance is accompanied by casuistry that I found increasingly hard to swallow, but Rhenn apparently found to his taste. The performative humility is especially difficult in that his actions are pretty selfish and bloodthirsty, especially on trivial matters. I get the impression (esp. looking at the following titles) that the series is meant to show how a well-meaning young man becomes a tyrant (or at least a lord). I have some sympathy with and interest in that idea; I’ve written a similar book myself. But in Imager’s Challenge, we see only the surface. We get painfully repetitive introspection and self-examination, but the actual consideration of cause and effect, cost and benefit, get short shrift. A wise person says “It should be so,” and Rhenn’s main thoughts are “Must it be so? I guess it must. It must be so. It shall be so.” and moves on to the next ethical puddle. Of course, only friends and acquaintances get this moral subservience. Enemies, as is well known, are evil and deserve no consideration; they may be brutally hurt or killed without consequence or concern, especially if they’re not sufficiently deferential (or if they’re not evil, but just happen to be near bad people). The ends justify any means, however extreme, and Rhenn readily forgives himself for any unpleasant outcomes.

It’s certainly possible that the politics/ethics of the book colored my view because they went against the grain for me (they certainly did). But it’s the superficiality of it that bothered me most. Rhennthyl is presented as thoughtful but brash, and he certainly worries a lot, but he doesn’t do much actual thinking. Only his conclusions are (heavily) underlined. In short, I found the book tedious and slow going. Since the series is evidently focused entirely on Rhenn and his moral compromises, I’m not eager to dive into the rest.

There’s also, as seems more common in Modesitt’s books, a lot of discussion of menus. It’s mostly generic – “fowl” rather than any particular bird – but you hear about lots of the meals. I didn’t find it interesting.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
Author 3 books8 followers
March 31, 2021
I appreciated that this book picked up basically the minute the first book left off. It did a good job of resolving my questions left over from book 1. The plot was enjoyable, and Rhenn and Seliora are great. I liked that I had a better sense of Rhenn's decision-making when it came to resolving his problems, but I was excited to go on to book 3!
Profile Image for William Bentrim.
Author 66 books62 followers
March 2, 2012
Imager’s Challenge by L.E. Modesitt, jr

This is the 2nd book in the Imager series. In the spirit of the terrific Recluse series, the Imager series debuts a new world of similar interest. Imagers, much like mages in the Recluse series seem both powerful and powerless. This book continues the story of a budding artist journeyman who tragically discovers he is an Imager. This story carries on from his discovery of his imaging ability and the danger and politics that surround a burgeoning power.

As in the first book, Medesitt’s protagonists have a modest, self depreciating nature. They are seldom the swaggering, boastful heroes found in many fantasies. The author spends a great deal of time defining the character of the protagonist. The carefully crafted persona is generally likeable and easy to identify with. This story is no exception. Rhen is a most enjoyable character who is coming of age in the story. His new occupation as a walking, talking Xerox machine provides a wealth of story materials.

The impact of doing the right thing for the right reasons when the right thing is unacceptable to the powers that be, provide a great deal of the angst to the plot. Seliora is his love interest and her love and her supportive family infuse the story with love and loyalty.

Modesitt applies political commentary and philosophy and insures that the reader has an opportunity to ponder the relationships that fuel reality. I mentioned his books, Time Gods World, The Forever Hero and Order Master all illustrate philosophic musings in my first Imager review. There are times where the author seems to pontificate a bit but it always fits the story line. For action junkies you can breeze over the pontificating and just sit on the edge of your seat and enjoy the brisk but thought provoking action.

The common thread, as I perceive it, in Modesitt’s stories is the lone soul fighting for self identity in a harsh world. Imager was the first book and was excellent and I read Scholar out of order and it was the book that triggered my interest in reading the series.

I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Matthew Sampson.
125 reviews1 follower
November 13, 2017
Imager's Challenge suffers from many of the same weaknesses as Imager. A realistic look at life seems to be the aim here, which apparently means saturating the story with details that don't characterise, don't develop the plot and don't identify important points. I have enough boring details in my life that I don't need Rhenn's too. The book did become more interesting in the second half as the main character made some choices that were actually significant to the plot, but not enough to save the story.

Rating: 2 stars (Poor. I probably wouldn't reread it.)
Profile Image for Heather.
10 reviews
March 30, 2010
Imager's Challenge continues the political intrigue started in Imager. Rhenn is learning that there is more to worry about and more to look for, even in the college that is supposed to be supporting him. As he continues to master his magical talents he must also learn the depths of the dangerous world that he lives in. The plot is becoming deeper as the books progress and I can't wait to see what the next Imager Portfolio will bring us.
Profile Image for Michael.
6 reviews1 follower
April 1, 2012
Every bit as good as the first one, perhaps even better because of the greater resolution.
This book picks up right where the previous one left off, without missing a beat.

The same characters are developed even further, and our hero continues to rise.
See my review of the first book, Imager, and expect an even larger second helping.

Profile Image for Brit Hopper.
53 reviews
August 2, 2016
Another fantastic installment

A fantastic addition to the Imager series. Loved the detailed behind the scenes political machinations throughout the series thus far. Great dialogue and character development. I'm going to stick with the series!
Profile Image for Eamonn Murphy.
Author 40 books8 followers
June 22, 2020
This is the second book in ‘The Imager Portfolio’ series. Like the first, it is set in the city of L’Execlsis in the country of Solidar. The technology is at about the level of Victorian England, the main methods of transport being horse-drawn cabs and railways. The latter are mostly used for freight. Society is well-organised and hierarchical with very wealthy landowners High Holders at the top, Merchants and manufacturers rising in importance, working folks and slum dwellers called Taudis at the bottom. The Collegium Imago – the College of Imagers – is a power in the land but by no means the only one and they have to tread carefully.

Imagers can manipulate matter with their minds and ‘image’ into existence objects that were not there before, albeit with a cost in energy and a cost, too, for the surrounding matter. They can do this over a limited distance so, for example, image caustic soda into the eyes of someone shooting at them. Some can also image force fields to use as shields and make themselves invisible.

After the events of ‘Imager’, our hero, Rhennthyl, is promoted. He will now be the liaison between the Imager Collegium and the Civic Patrol, essentially the police force of L’Excelsis. The officers in the Patrol don’t like him but he fares better on the streets with the ordinary cops. Rhenn has made a deadly enemy in High Holder Ryel, one of the most powerful men in Solidar. Certain slum leaders, called Taudischefs, are also out to get him but one is his friend, more or less. His girl-friend, Seliora, and her family are also strong allies. They are furniture manufacturers who made it out of the slums but still have some useful contacts therein. The College of Imagers, to which Rhenn belongs, seems mostly interested in keeping him quiet to avoid trouble with the High Holders and the Council. Not much support there.

The plot proceeds at Mister Modesitt’s usual steady pace. Rhenn���s daily life is narrated: his early morning runs, his meals, his patrols, his meetings with his girl-friend: everything. Meals are lovingly described and, every time he meets Seliora, we learn what she is wearing today. We are also privy to his own thoughts via the medium of first person narration. Over the course of many pages, the reader is drawn into the life of the protagonist and wants to know how it all turns out.

It is not flashy storytelling but it works and is even enjoyable. Modesitt is fantasy’s Anthony Trollope whose work was once described by Nathaniel Hawthorne as ‘solid fare, like beef and potatoes’. The author’s heroes are decent hard-headed chaps – hard hearted, too, when necessary – with magic powers. Their friends are ordinary people. Modesitt had a career in politics and is much concerned with how a society works economically and politically. He gives the novels a very realistic background and it is this solid under-pinning that makes his work different from most other fantasies. Stylistically, he is slightly too fond of tags to avoid the ‘he said, she said’ trap but not to any jarring extent. His usual alternative is ‘I offered’ and ‘he returned’. James Blish would have him boiled in oil but I don’t really mind. The book is written in very clear prose and reading it induces a state of mild contentment. Like eating meat and potatoes really.

There aren’t too many surprises in the plot because as we follow Rhenn’s thoughts, it isn’t too hard to guess what he might do next. However, when he is surprised we are, too. This is notable when he gets some idea of how other people see him. There is also a nice revelation right at the end of the book.

I spend a lot of time reviewing short stories, where one is thrown into a strange world for a few pages and then, with the next story, taken into one entirely different. For me, it is nice, cosy even, to settle into one well-wrought fantasy world for a hundred thousand words or so of easy, pleasant reading. Judging by the popularity of Modesitt’s many books, I am not alone.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/
Profile Image for Richard Rogers.
Author 6 books8 followers
October 7, 2019
I enjoy books by this author, in general. He writes in a very glib way, with a rolling plot that just keeps moving. I especially like the characters (here and elsewhere) and like to see them figure things out and attack problems with the help of allies.

I don't love his long descriptions of the inconsequential (what Rhenn did on almost every day from the start of the book to the end, or the menu of almost every meal in the story) or strange dialog (random meetings turning into long paragraphs of conversation about politics or philosophy). It pads a story that would be plenty long, but that's how he likes it, so that's what you get. If you want the story, you get the quirks.

I like the story, so I'll take the quirks.

Rhenn is a good character. He's a young man with a lot of nerve and imaging skill and a strong ethical sense. He's navigating a world where you can count on some people and not others, which he's figuring out, and he makes unlikely friends because he is fair and reliable. I like his girlfriend, Seliora, and her family a lot, too. They are a business family and members of an ethnic minority, people somewhat oppressed by the majority, and while Seliora and the others are very loving, they also have a very tough mentality that I admire. From the start, they embrace Rhenn in a do-anything-for-you kind of way, which included fighting behind the scenes for him, and become central to the plot. This dynamic between Rhenn and her family is my favorite part of the book.

Imager's Challenge is the second book in the series. The more the world-building gets taken care of, which is a big part of the first two books, the more the action comes to the fore, which I find more fun to read. So after I see to a few other books waiting on my TBR pile, I'm eager to get to book 3 and seeing how Rhenn is doing.

Book and series--recommended.
Profile Image for Yev.
571 reviews10 followers
March 6, 2022
I was surprised by how this book went, for better and worse. Most of what happened in the first book is relegated to the background. This book is almost entirely focused from beginning to end on the justice system of the same city as the first book. The 25 year old protagonist is tasked with experiencing first hand how justice is carried out from beginning to end. For a majority of the book that means the protagonist is patrolling as a beat cop in the slums, which is not what I expected to be reading at all.

Even so, I enjoyed myself and put my misgivings aside. I would've preferred a more expansive setting than the city alone. I also would've liked more to have been done with the magic, though there is some experimentation with it in this one as well. This is a slow book, aside from the protagonist's personal advancement, that focuses on the details. I found a lot about how their society is ran to be disagreeable, though still interesting. As I wrote about the previous book, this isn't something I would expect the average reader to do if this doesn't seem like something the reader would enjoy.

I was intrigued the book seemed to tease that this could be an anti-villain origin story. The protagonist doesn't really mind that much to murder those personally inconvenient to him and collateral damage is acceptable. He also has a lot of concerns about the structure of society and his role in them. However, there are constant assassination attempts on him and those he cares about, and the powers that be would prefer he voluntarily tie his own hands. Some warnings are given about a potentially ruinous future as well, but by the end, it seemed like it was all just a tease, but I could be proven wrong yet by the third book. The System does do co-opting very well.

Overall, I simply enjoyed reading it and that's what matters most to me, though I can certainly understand why others wouldn't like it at all. I definitely prefer the first book to this one, though I'm giving it a slightly lower rating.

Rating: 3.5/5

EDITED: March 6th 2022, from 4 to 3.5.
154 reviews19 followers
August 25, 2017
I bought this entire 11 book series when it was on sale. I'll probably come back and re-rate the books depending on how the entire series plays out. I was a bit wary about book 1, because it didn't seem like it'd pass the Bechdel test or that women would be anything more than plot devices to help the male protagonist along. It definitely is a man's world and the amount of notable women featured isn't huge, but they ones that do are interesting secondary characters with developed personalities and have some agency. They still kind of seem to exist in book 2 for the sake of being useful to the protagonist, but book 3 is expanding more on the agency and ideas of the women he knows.

Some of the societal settings, naming, and family set-up remind me of ancient Rome in terms of a "woman's place" though it's a bit more progressive and diverse with a variety of cultural interactions and beliefs, I think that is why we don't end up seeing a ton of women workers or women-to-women conversations unless there are multiple ladies in a household. Book 1 can also be forgiven for the lack of ladies, as it's a story about a young man who is fairly cloistered off for most of that book. As he gets older, the amount of people he gets to interact with increases.

Again, I will reserve full judgement until I finish the series.
Profile Image for Jane.
98 reviews7 followers
March 6, 2019
Imager's Challenge

In the IMAGER series, Modesitt has created a convincing society with complex relationships and interactions. There is an attempt in the various discussions that take place to envisage what might be the best form of government for a society. He hints that the most valuable members of society are those who actually WORK, especially the craftspeople, rather than those who have just inherited land, and abuse their power.
I love the leitmotif of always describing how the heroine is dressed - never less than elegant! - and the details of what people eat and what wine they drink.
107 reviews
October 2, 2020
Rhenn becomes an Aspect de' Imager, which is the highest rank imager, completely destroys the family of the High Holder whose son attacked him, except for the daughter Lliara, whom he leaves alive in charge of the estate. He destroys an enemy country using fire-based imaging, and succeeds his mentor as head of the "active" Imagers after the island is shelled by cannon-fire. He marries Solieri, has a beautiful daughter, and finds out he has a bit of the Pharsi sight. All in all, the book focuses on intrigue, so there are a lot of dinners, a lot of conversation, and not too much action, except that which tends to be quick and deadly.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Michael Earls.
3 reviews
January 8, 2020
As with the first book in the series, I really enjoyed the world that Rhenn lived in. The day-in-the-life approach to writing is something that I never thought I would enjoy, but it is enjoyable, even if it is a bit boring at times. It's the boredom that gives the story its realism and I appreciate the stability that it brings to the world. This book puts a tidy conclusion on one of the major issues facing Rhenn, and the title of the book is fitting. I'm looking forward to finding out what's next.
Profile Image for Nina Usherwood.
94 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2018
Enjoying the series. Another interesting world. While it follows the author theme of a main character being placed situation where the protagonist see no way to protect themselve and the people they care about, the result of their action to protect lead to unexpected changes and the protagonist gaining power and position.

On to book 3
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