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- Written By: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
- Format: Hardback, 460 pp.
- Publisher: Tor
- Book Series: The Imager Portfolio
- Genre: Fantasy
Book Review: Antiagon Fire
Political intrigue meets rousing high fantasy!
By Chuck Francisco
June 15, 2013
What sort of adversary can be pitted against a man capable of freezing solid entire armies and whole royal parties alike? Imagers of the world of Terahnar are immensely gifted individuals; rare people who can conjure into being nearly any object they can conceive of. This is a powerful ability, and quite dangerous to any unjust ruler who makes an enemy of them or the people. This particular scenario is precisely why Imagers are persecuted in the world of L.E. Modesitt Jr's Imager's Portfolio. The corrupt ruler of a kingdom which doesn't kill or enslave these gifted individuals upon discovery may have a dagger imaged into their throat from an unseen assassin at any point. Because of all this, the choice to center a series around Quaeryt, the brother-in-law of Lord Bhayar, commander in his service, diplomatic envoy to Khel, and perhaps the most potent weapon on the continent, strikes chords both thought provoking and brilliant.
Quaeryt is an extremely learned man, having been a scholar prior to becoming a solider out of necessity. Because of this and his experiences with persecution, he does not exercise violence where unnecessary. All of his actions are deeply considered, were possible, to lead to the least casualties. More and more as Antiagon Fire progresses though, we see the fallibility of this line of thinking. As powerful as he is, how far is too far when exercising force of such magnitudes? The cracks are beginning to show through in Quaeryt, and his own doubts are explored more thoroughly in this volume than in previous entries. It's a strongly utilized theme of the book, which works to attract and maintain the "just one more chapter" impulse. Modesitt is a master of enticement in this regard.
Antiagon Fire has quite a different feel than Imager's Battalion does, being more of a road, exploration adventure instead of a regimented military campaign. There is solid action and mixed unit combat, but it occupies less of a place of prominence. Taking the emphasis is political intrigue, supplemented with a mix of exploration, cultural clashes, and perhaps the seeds of Quaeryt's corruption or downfall. He shows a concerning turn down the path of excusing away more and more violence as necessary to Lord Bhayar's (and his) agenda. It's unsettling because he is a sympathetic figure with relatable desires, but he's also commanding such immense power. The entire paradigm is beginning to develop a light side/dark side dynamic. In those familiar terms it feels like Quaeryt is starting the decent toward the dark side, but since he's been such a paragon of morality, it is a long and gradual slide which he's only just begun.
Later in the narrative Imager on Imager combat is finally showcased and it's the highlight of the narrative. It's handled exceedingly well, with shocking developments that may well stun longtime readers of the series. Of course the divergent cultures encountered are expertly crafted and deeply flushed out, which adds levels of complexity required to truly get lost in a fantasy story.
Antiagon Fire is another grandiose and intriguing adventure, of the depth and magnitude that readers have long expected from L.E. Modesitt, Jr. It offers enough support for new readers to the Imager Portfolio series if they want to jump directly in, while weaving the continuing story threads into a warm quilt of familiar comfort. This comes highly recommended for fans of high fantasy, who are looking for a traveling adventure with more political complexity than your average Dragonlance paperback. Of course series fans will love it. Antiagon Fire is the road movie of fantasy novels, and it's available now from Tor/Forge in hardback for $27.99. Check out more information on the Official page. Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.