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Imager: The First Book of the Imager Portfolio [Hardcover]

L. E. Modesitt
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 17 2009 Imager Portfolio (Book 1)

Imager is the beginning of a whole new fantasy in a whole new magical world from the bestselling creator of Recluce. Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle.  Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the “truths” he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life.  He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and begins to learn to do magic in secret. Imager is the innovative and enchanting opening of an involving new fantasy story.


Product Details


Product Description

Review

Praise for L. E. Modesitt, Jr.:

“The author’s skill in portraying the humanity of characters who possess the power to destroy others with a thought adds a level of verisimilitude and immediacy rarely found in grand-scale fantasy."
--Library Journal

“Modesitt is an extremely intelligent writer, possessing remarkable ingenuity at creating systems of magic and a real gift for characterization.”
--Booklist

“Modesitt’s work shines with engrossing characters, terrific plotting, and realistic world-building.”
--Romantic Times BOOKreviews

About the Author

L.E. Modesitt, Jr., lives in Cedar City, Utah.


Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, as usual June 29 2009
By jydez
Format:Hardcover
I must disagree with elements of the previous review. I agree that as usual Modesitt does a great job of creating a fantasy world, but part of that requires building up the belief structure of the characters. What's all the business with the Namer, the Nameless, and so on mean if we don't find out about the background? The philosophical bits, while boring at points and I would usually skim through, were usually done in a couple of paragraphs, not what I would call lengthy at all.

I couldn't put it down for 2 days (well, except to sleep) and my wife (who doesn't read nearly as much as I do and has a hard time finishing books if they don't engage her interest early on) enjoyed it as well. Looking forward to the next in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best since the Corean Chronicles July 1 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book, written in very much the same style as his Corean Chronicles which are some of my favorite books. Other reviews found some of the philisophical interludes slow, I found them interesting & thought provoking, and an important factor in the creation of not just a new fantasy world, but the culture that dwells within it. He strikes a good balance with the power of creating things with the mind and limitations to that power - both physically and politically.

I especially like a good novel that can tell the story without the need to prop it up with the crutches of foul language and sensuality. This is one of those.

Worst part is waiting for the next books in the series. Luckily that won't be too long!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty picture of nothing much June 5 2009
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
It sounds like the ultimate deus ex machina: hey, look at me, I can make and teleport stuff with the power of my mind!

Fortunately, L.E. Modesitt Jr. avoids that particular usage in "Imager," the first book of a new series with the theme of "imaging." He spends the entire book creating a semi-realistic fantasy world with Renaissance French flair, complete with guilds, social customs, subcultures, a tinge of romance and plenty of politics... but unfortunately he never really bothers with much beyond that.

Uninterested in the wool trade, Rhennthyl is apprenticed to a master artist, and soon learns that his skills are too formidable -- and too honest -- for his surly master. But then Rhenn's master and his son are killed in an explosion... mere seconds after Rhenn was imagining it. Frightened of the consequences, he rushes to Imagisle, where the "imager" mages live and work -- they are people who can shape reality with the power of their thoughts.

Becoming an imager has its own challenges, as Rhenn must learn to regulate, control and shape his powers, while learning all about philosophy, law and the strict rules (spoken and unspoken) that imagers live by. And though he personally has some problems with angry, jealous students, there are bigger problems facing the land of Solidar and the city of L'Excelsis -- including a serial killer murdering young imagers, and a brewing war between other lands.

Modesitt loves to create elaborate fantasy worlds, often with a set theme -- music, colour, and in this case the power of imagery (whether art or magic).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  141 reviews
83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fomulaic, but good April 16 2009
By James Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
L.E. Modesitt, Jr., begins a new series in the same vein as Recluse. The parallels with Recluse are undeniable and formulaic, but they're also the reason that the Recluse series is successful. Remember, when we first read The Magic of Recluse back in 1991, a primary point of interest was introducing a system of magic without actually detailing how it worked, first. We discover, along with the protagonist, how it works, oh, so very slowly.

The same thing happens, here. We have a protagonist in a coming-of-age story. He doesn't fit in where he is, and his adventures consist of his finding his own way. I won't explain the magic, because that would spoil the book for those who are interested. Suffice it to say that it's very subtle, and the plot is suitably more subtle than those of the Recluse books.

Another large part of the fun in a new series such as this is gaining the flavor of a new imaginary world. This is almost-France in the Renaissance. A keen reader will recognize famous names, slightly modified, such as Descartes and Poincare. A strength of the author's approach is the detail with which he describes the environment, the food, the art, etc., giving the reader sufficient detail to imagine what the world is "really like." Of course, while such is a strength in the eyes of some readers, others will find this approach to be tedious and boring. If you like reading fantasy novels in order to explore a new world, this is right up your alley. If you prefer your fantasy to be more like Indiana Jones or Star Wars (the movies, not the mishmash of the extended universe), with fast-paced action without requiring much background detail, then you'll not appreciate this story.

Another forte of Modesitt's is the combination of magic and philosophy. In this universe, the philosophy is more separate (Recluse's order vs. chaos had very moralistic overtones, in which chaos-wielders tended to be evil, for example). The philosophy here is an exploration of people, principles, and social interaction in general.

Modesitt's primary weakness is also evident, here: the character development isn't as good as one might wish, for a novel that introduces a new world. With good character development (e.g., David Eddings' Belgariad), a reader will quickly get a sense of liking and disliking certain characters, and after time, will feel as if one actually knows these very real people. Modesitt's characters, while not undeveloped, still feel like abstractions, slightly too perfect, with no real sense of humor or jocular interaction taking place between them. In all physical, philosphical and artistic aspects, Modesitt's creations feel real and alive - but the people feel a bit more "animatronic".

I give the book 5 stars, however, because my standards for character development are very high, and I am -so- relieved to read a fantasy story without vampires, without werewolves, and without having it turn into a "romance novel" for a few pages, I can forgive this novel for not meeting this particular standard of excellence.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Modesitt, you will like this book Nov. 26 2011
By Mark M - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This would be my first "review" in all my years as an avid reader of this genre (30) and is partially in response to the reviews by Taylor Rand and Damon Bradley. Their negative reviews ALMOST made me not by this book. But then I thought to myself, "Self, you have been reading Modesitt from the beginning and have not been disappointed. Buy the book!" I was not disappointed.

Rand writes: "...I thought Imager was a dull, plodding tale. The story, narrated by young Rhennthyl, an artist-turned-Imager spy, just creeps along with little beyond descriptions of food, philosophy, social structures and basic Imager rules. The protagonist is too colorless and detached to care much about. His reactions to events good or bad are pretty much the same: unemotional, impassive, impersonal..."

The above, only a small quote from the review, is such a poor, sweeping generalization of this work. If you are a true L. E. Modesitt Jr. fan and reader of his novels, Modesitt's style of writing, his attention to seemingly irrelevant detail, the thematic "coming of age" character portrayals, and the emphasis upon modesty in lands severely lacking this trait are just a few examples of why we read his books. I am specifically referring to Modesitt's novels that include the Recluse series, The Corean Chronicles, and the Soprano Sorceress. I have been reading these books since the early 90s, and I don't think I have been disappointed once.

As for Damon Bradley's review , it reads as follows: "This author is one of the most boring in SF/Fantasy today. The ONLY reason he is published is because he is a prolific writer. The characters in ALL his books are boring and two-dimensional, and are only there for the "storyline". Please please PLEASE give us main characters we like and care about, and other supporting characters that are not boring either. I have read more than 10,000 books and am consistently disappointed in Modesitt's books. Try harder, dude..."

Authors are not published for fun. They are certainly attached to a monetary value that is directly proportional to a level of popularity. Modesitt is obviously doing something right. And if you do not like the author's books, as described above, stop reading his books. Please do not put a negative spin on an author before new readers even have a chance to give it a try. Modesitt has a very specific writing style that is appealing to some and not so much to others. We all have different tastes.

The purpose of this "review" is not really to tell you whether or not this book is worth reading. The point, really, is to stress the fact that you should not let a few negative reviews dissuade you from reading any book. Books are like food. Some food we love, some food is OK, and some food we do not like much at all. But in order to know if we like a certain dish, we must first taste it.

I will leave you with this: If you are a long-time Modesitt reader, you will not be disappointed by this book. If you have stumbled across Modesitt for the first time and are trying to decide whether or not to buy the book, give it a try...you might like it. If you like it, I would recommend going all the way back to the beginning to read the Recluse and Corean novels. If you don't like it, there is plenty of other awesome food out there. Enjoy!
36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Imager: Little Imagination, Plodding, Listless Sept. 23 2010
By Taylor Rand - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Sadly (because I had high hopes for the series), I thought Imager was a dull, plodding tale. The story, narrated by young Rhennthyl, an artist-turned-Imager spy, just creeps along with little beyond descriptions of food, philosophy, social structures and basic Imager rules. The protagonist is too colorless and detached to care much about. His reactions to events good or bad are pretty much the same: unemotional, impassive, impersonal.

Rhenn does kill several people - accidentally or on purpose in self-defense (and for practice killing condemned prisoners) and it's of no more import than having to write an essay on jurisprudence or learn more Imager lore. It's all written in the same tone - whether Rhenn's just escaped an assassination or having dinner with his girlfriend.

(About the assassination attempts, there are so many - always stopped by Rhenn's mental shield - that they became humorous: Rhenn can't seem to stick his head outside Imager Isle without bullets whizzing by like pesky mosquitoes.)

Oddly enough though, the attempts on Rhenn's life aren't all that interesting even to Rhenn. He does ask around, at the Imager HQ's request, to find out who might be trying to kill him but he doesn't particularly change his daily routine. As for the Imager organization, they're apparently too busy imaging aluminum pots or whatever they do, to find out who's trying to kill Imagers every week. Or why would a very inexperienced Rhenn be conducting the investigation?

Even this lethargic tale sounds more exciting than it really is. Rhenn's days are spent mostly describing everything he's doing, eating, writing or thinking. It's really the author's way of tediously telling us this world's philosophy, magic, economics, social structure, foods, government, etc.

If this book were a tv series or movie, Imager would've been one episode or the first fifteen minutes. Maybe the following books become more interesting. I doubt I'll bother finding out.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lackluster April 6 2012
By K.M. Weiland, Author of Historical and Speculative Fiction - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
The book features an enjoyable premise (the ability of certain people to "image" material objects into existence), as well as the foundation of an interesting Victorian-era France-like setting, but too much of it reads like Imaging 101, and what action exists grows quickly repetitious. Add to that a lackluster narrator and superfluous details of every stripe, and I'll have to admit I finally gave up and started skimming the last third or so.
31 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ornate portrait of nothing March 25 2009
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It sounds like the ultimate deus ex machina: hey, look at me, I can make and teleport stuff with the power of my mind!

Fortunately, L.E. Modesitt Jr. avoids that particular usage in "Imager," the first book of a new series with the theme of "imaging." He spends the entire book creating a semi-realistic fantasy world with Renaissance French flair, complete with guilds, social customs, subcultures, a tinge of romance and plenty of politics... but unfortunately he never really bothers with much beyond that.

Uninterested in the wool trade, Rhennthyl is apprenticed to a master artist, and soon learns that his skills are too formidable -- and too honest -- for his surly master. But then Rhenn's master and his son are killed in an explosion... mere seconds after Rhenn was imagining it. Frightened of the consequences, he rushes to Imagisle, where the "imager" mages live and work -- they are people who can shape reality with the power of their thoughts.

Becoming an imager has its own challenges, as Rhenn must learn to regulate, control and shape his powers, while learning all about philosophy, law and the strict rules (spoken and unspoken) that imagers live by. And though he personally has some problems with angry, jealous students, there are bigger problems facing the land of Solidar and the city of L'Excelsis -- including a serial killer murdering young imagers, and a brewing war between other lands.

Modesitt loves to create elaborate fantasy worlds, often with a set theme -- music, colour, and in this case the power of imagery (whether art or magic). And "Imager" has a wonderfully intricate world based on France of some centuries ago (except with guns) -- salons of haughty, cutthroat aristocrats, merchants dickering over money, the semi-ostracized Pharsi, and plenty of beautiful artwork. What's more, he gives great attention to the structure of these societies, and the politics of surrounding regions.

Perhaps most importantly, Modesitt comes up with a semi-plausible number of restrictions for the imagers, as well as society's intense discomfort with them.

Unfortunately, all that detail and realism leads to... boredom. The plot crawls by at a snail's pace, with lots of descriptions of the daily life of young imager students, which basically involves a lot of drills and studying. And every few chapters we get very long philosophical conversations about God (or "the Nameless"), law, morals, art, and the intricacies of making imager shields. Modesitt spices things up a little with the hints of encroaching war and some cloak-and-dagger intrigues for talented images, but it's not enough to give this book a real plot.

The cast has a lot of sprightly, quirky or memorable characters, ranging from the warmhearted Seliora to snotty rich boys. Unfortunately Rhennthyl is not one of them: he's too passionless and aimless, and he observes the world with clinically cold eyes. He even kills four men and cripples a fourth over the course of a few months, but never experiences a single twinge of guilt or shock -- even when facing his late master's widow.

"Imager: The First Book of the Imager Portfolio" has a brilliant setting and beautifully detailed framework, but its sluggish pace and aimless hero bog it down badly. At least it ends with the promise of more interesting tales to come.
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