Book Review · fantasy · reading

Book Review: Scholar by L. E. Modesitt

From Goodreads: Hundreds of years before the time of Imager, the continent of Lydar is fragmented.  Years of war have consolidated five nations into three–Bovaria, Telaryn, and Antiago. Quaeryt is a scholar and a friend of Bhayar, the young ruler of Telaryn. Worried about his future and the escalating intrigues in Solis, the capital city, Quaeryt persuades Bhayar to send him to Tilbor, conquered ten years earlier by Bhayar’s father, in order to see if the number and extent of occupying troops can be reduced so that they can be re-deployed to the border with warlike Bovaria.

Quaeryt has managed to conceal the fact that he is an imager, since the life expectancies of imagers in Lydar is short. Just before Quaeryt departs, Bhayar’s youngest sister passes a letter to the scholar-imager, a letter that could well embroil Quaeryt in the welter of court politics he had hoped to leave behind. On top of that, on his voyage and journey to Tilbor he must face pirates, storms, poisonings, attempted murder, as well as discovering the fact that he is not quite who he thought he was. To make it all worse, the order of scholars to which he belongs is jeopardized in more ways than one.

Quaeryt supplements his income by imaging coins from whatever copper or silver is lying around. He tried to make gold coins once, but the effort nearly killed him. 😉

He is ship-wrecked, attacked, half-drowned and spends the second half of the book in a war zone. He is shot with a crossbow and hits people with a staff.

Despite all that Scholar contains very few fights, chases, slashing at the bad guys and things like that. That isn’t surprising; Quaeryt has a bad leg and doesn’t have any weapons training. All he has is his imaging abilities to protect him. And he can’t even acknowledge his imager abilities.

So the lack of fights is not surprising, but it is slightly disappointing. The last few imager novels had lots and lots of action, but the imager in question was a cop. Maybe I am spoiled. 😉

There are a lot of politics and a few philosophical discussions. Well, lectures – Quaeryt  gives homilies when the local priest is not available. He acts like a scholar; he spends lots of time reviewing records, interviewing people and things like that.

Scholar starts slow and that doesn’t sound interesting. But events move so you constantly wonder what’s going to happen next, where the book is going and so on. You want  (well, I want!) to turn the page. In fact, I got so into this book, I neglected Tricks of the Trade. (I have an ARC for Tricks of the Trade, and its back cover copy sounds a lot more interesting.)

Also, the book says Quaeryt has goals for imagers and scholars both. It never outlines them. But whatever they are, I suspect they are related to the position of imagers in the previous books.

The bad guy dies. There are questions, but no one can finger Quaeryt. That isn’t surprising; I pretty much expected Quaeryt to kill the bad guy like he did.

No, the surprise here is his engagement. This is only took me by surprise because I am so familiar with Modesitt’s other books. The hero always has a smart and beautiful SO. But marriage always takes more effort. You never get to the end and have the girl’s family announce the engagement without so much as a by-your-leave!

I expect the wedding will be in the next book and bring Quaeryt a whole host of new problems.

Scholar is stand-alone. You could read it without needing to read the other three books.