Book Review: Rex Regis (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 10, 2014
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. absolutely has to be one of the hardest working people in the book business. Over the past year or so, I've covered no less than three other releases from him (Imager's Battalion, Antiagon Fire, and The One-Eyed Man), two of which come from the very same series as the book covered today. Rex Regis marks the eight installment of the Imager Portfolio series, and seems to conclude the story of second series protagonist, Quaeryt- Commander among Lord Bhayar's conquering forces, and likely the greatest imager alive. This begs an interesting overarching question: is this the end of the series, or will Modesitt return to the protagonist of the first three books, Rhenn? Or perhaps another direction altogether is in store for the series? In any case, those unfamiliar with the setting are likely wondering what an imager is exactly.
Writ quite simply, imagers are the magic users of this world. Instead of slinging fireballs, blasting lightning bolts, or denying the passage of Balrogs, imagers are incredibly rare humans born with the ability to make real that which they visualize in their minds. Walls of force become shields against enemies, darts of iron become lethal assaults from great distances, bridges can be easily conjured into being, and there are so many other inventive ways to utilize is skill. Because of this level of unpredictability, and the lack of defense against it for normal humans, imagers have been persecuted and forced to hide who they are for thousands of years. Quaeryt has been working to change the stars of imagers across Lydar, backing Lord Bhayar in his quest to unite the entire continent under one rule, with the aim of ending the countless wars that have endured for generations.
Rex Regis finds this goal so close at hand, and yet as Henry Jones Jr. is known to say, this is often when the floor falls out from under you. Treachery may threaten to unravel all that Quaeryt has fought and suffered so hard to build, as a double gambit of impossible accusations hurtle rapidly toward the spotlight. Those familiar with the series, and who have been following along a home, should be familiar with Modesitt's deeply detailed style, which is mined from the same rich ore vein as Tolkien. The rewards here are generous, with a number of moving moments accompanying the end of Quaeryt's adventures, but it does take some time to get us there, and the action has been scaled down a great deal from the last two installments. Still, fans of the series will pour over each detailed conversation, relishing this lushly populated landscape for the wonderful high fantasy fruit it provides.
It is those long time fans who will likely be as moved to become misty eyed as I was, but folks coming into this entry blind may find elements of the plot imprecise or incomplete. No fault of the book, this is merely a side effect of Rex Regis being the end chapter to a series within the series. I recommend interested new readers jump on board with Imager's Battalion (Imager Portfolio #6), as it marks a rich, action packed jumping off point, and a natural three part story arc ending with Rex Regis.
That long wind up toward momentum does hamper the narrative of this book somewhat, which is why I would recommend new readers become invested in the setting and characters prior to picking up Rex Regis. Longstanding fans wring so much more from the grapes on this vine since they already have vested interests in both the world masterfully constructed by Modesitt, and the people he has populated it with. Despite this, fans of high fantasy settings should put The Imager Portfolio series on their to read list.
Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is available now from Tor Publishing as a Tor Hardcover for $27.99. Order it Here. Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing 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.
Mania Grade: B
Author: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Book Series: The Imager Portfolio, #8
Genre: High Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages