Here is the 12th and seemingly final book in the Imager Portfolio series, following immediately on the events of Assassin’s Price. Charyn has his hands full, attempting to restore, or in some instances establish order and prosperity to Solidar in the aftermath of regicide, drought, war, and much political scheming and chicanery. Some High Holders aren’t paying their proper tariffs, and oddly enough the ones who are paying the least are the ones demanding the most in the way of repairs, construction, and military back-up. Some of the Factors are complaining of losses at sea, while most of them are demanding that Charyn forcibly suppress the growing restlessness of workers, to protect Factors’ profits. And now a small but growing number of religious reformers are protesting how church Anomens and Choristers are being untrue to the teachings of Rholan and the spirit of the Nameless.
Charyn genuinely has the welfare of all at heart, which means nearly everyone assumes he does not accord sufficient weight to their particular interests. It isn't long before he is receiving veiled death threats from three quarters. Part of the difficulty is that Charyn isn’t like his father, the former Rex, nor does he want to be like the man who failed to safeguard Solidar from its present woes, or to see that his deadliest enemies were the ones closest to him. Even as Holders and Factors urge him to precipitous action he is considering what might be done in better ways. Quietly, steadily, he is uncovering long-buried secrets that have undermined the foundation of their society, and quietly, persistently, he is readying himself for the confrontations he realizes may be inevitable in the hope that the quiet virtues of thoughtfulness, patience, consideration, and fair-mindedness, backed up by weapons practice, might accomplish more than his sire’s high-handed carelessness.
There’s another whole set of problems associated with the issue of issue, or rather, the lack thereof. Charyn’s younger brother is perforce his heir unless he can find a wife who is willing to shoulder the burden of rule, and it cannot be the woman he loves, Palenya. There may be many High Holders’ daughters ambitious for the honor, but it is not cold ambition Charyn wants, or needs. Gradually, he enters into a most unusual courtship with a young woman who is as aware of the nuances of power and obligation as Charyn himself, who shares his love of music, and who challenges him to discover the worth of literature and poetry. Their exchange of letters reveals a gradual evolution from wary interest to respect to regard to trust to love; and I’d like to comment that only someone who loves truly and deeply can write such. Modesitt’s love for his own wife is an illuminative factor is his writing, a gold standard of how love expresses itself indirectly through art.
Fantasy, at its best, is often a reminder of something we are in danger of forgetting, and sometimes fantasy is the clearest reflection of our present reality, in garb, as it were. One can read the Imager stories as straight fantasy, or as the closest of social commentaries, complete with insights for how we might better our understanding and our practices, without ever degenerating into mere “message” fiction. These wonderful books are not rants, they are artful, loving, and lovely configurations of the human experience during transitions one every sort. ~~ Chris Wozney
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