In the interest of full disclosure, the reader should know that while I don't consider myself a Modesitt fan-boy, it's very rare that I don't love his work. So, a 4 of 5 star rating for Imager's Intrigue is, coming from me, a big deal. As I thought about why I wasn't thrilled with this novel, I finally decided on the following:
1. It seemed out of place. True to its title, Imager's Intrigue is all about Rhenn unravelling schemes and machinations, and not so much about Rhenn being a hands-on imager. To be fair, we still get to see Rhenn in action, but it's really not the point of this book. In fact, the largest action sequence in the story doesn't even involve (directly) Rennn. Not to say that a book of intrigue is a bad thing, but it is a significant departure from the rhythm established in the prior two books. I found it jarring, and since it really wasn't what I was looking forward to, a bit disappointing.
2. It felt repetitive. I'm not sure how many times the reader needs to be reminded about the Rhenn's morning calisthenics rituals, or how important it is that imagers sleep in lead-lined rooms or have to read prayers to The Nameless, but in these areas (and others) I felt like Modesitt went a little overboard. I'll give Modesitt the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was trying to convey that the structure of Rhenn's days are routine (wake up, exercise, read reports while taking hack to work...), but enough already.
3. It got a little preachy. Modesitt explores the relative merits of capitalism, free-trade, benevolent monarchies, the military industrial complex and tax law. Oh, and women's rights. Can't forget women's rights. Suffice to say, the reader is left with little doubt as to where the author stands on these issues, and his arguments are a bit ham-handed.
Despite these issues, I still heartily recommend this series, and this book, to friends and strangers. The world is expertly crafted. The (many) characters are nuanced, true to their motives and so well presented that most readers will (continue to) care about what happens to all of the primaries. The overall story arc, while a bit predictable, still has enough surprises that the reader can't take anything for granted. And if a lecture on the impact of land valuation is not something you want to sit through, just skip it. Unlike several books I've read of late where I find myself skipping over large sections of smut and am left with little to call a story, even if you skim through all of the "boring" in Imager's Intrigue you are still left with a lot to enjoy.