The Imager Porfolio is a bestselling and innovative epic fantasy series from L. E. Modesitt, Jr. that RT Book Reviews says “shines with engrossing characters, terrific plotting, and realistic world-building.” Begin a new story arc with Madness in Solidar.
Four centuries after its founding, Solidar's Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The scarcity of leardership within the Collegium forces the dying Maitre to summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle as his successor.
Alastar arrives in L'Excelsis to finds the Collegium in disarray and lacking discipline, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as mad.
To make matters worse, neither the Rex nor the High Holder have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar, who has little political experience, finds himself in the middle of a power struggle—one which may determine the survival of the Collegium.
The Imager Portfolio
#1 Imager / #2 Imager’s Challenge / #3 Imager’s Intrigue / #4 Scholar / #5 Princeps / #6 Imager’s Battalion / #7 Antiagon Fire / #8 Rex Regis / #9 Madness in Solidar / #10 Treachery’s Tools / #11 Assassin’s Price
Other series by this author:
The Saga of Recluce
The Corean Chronicles
The Spellsong Cycle
The Ghost Books
The Ecolitan Matter
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Madness in Solidar
The Ninth Book of the Imager Portfolio
By L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
The two gray-clad imagers sat in the two chairs before the oblong desk. The prematurely gray-haired one glanced at the timepiece on the corner of the desk, and its sands flowing from the top of the glass to the bottom.
"Do you have to go?" asked Cyran, the younger of the two men, if only by a few years, although some silver hairs streaked his blond thatch.
"Not quite yet. I'm supposed to meet the rex at half past eighth glass. He'd be happier if it were sixth glass."
"Is he that early a riser?"
"Supposedly. He always looks tired, even when he's angry, and that's more often the case than not."
"Alastar ... don't you think you're acceding to his wishes too much? Even Maitre Fhaen ..."
"He is the source of almost all our funding. That's barely enough right now, as I pointed out at the last meeting of the senior maitres. The drought in the southeast, around Piedryn, and the last rains here and in the west, have halved crop yields, and prices are going up ... and will increase more. Then there's the small matter that the Collegium's charter is to support the rex, and that means against the High Holders and everything else. In the past, that's meant support against the army High Command as well, but with Demykalon only recently becoming marshal, it's hard to say."
"The word is that he doesn't like imagers."
"That's likely true." In fact, that had been one of the first things Alastar had learned after arriving at Imagisle. "That doesn't mean that Demykalon is that fond of the rex, and these days, Ryen also needs support against the factors' council."
"And everyone else, the Nameless knows," replied Cyran. "That puts us at odds with almost everyone."
"Ryen is far less than he could be, but would you want Demykalon, or any marshal running Solidar? Or High Holders Haebyn, Nacryon, and Guerdyn? Or any factor that you could name?"
"Especially Elthyrd. He's behind some new money-lending factorage, likely another excuse for usury on a larger scale."
"Oh ... the new Banque D'Excelsis?" Alastar couldn't recall where he'd heard that.
"The word is that he put up the golds to back his son. What about Lorien? Would he be a better rex than his father?"
"Who knows? I've never met him, but it's hard to believe he couldn't do better than his sire, but that's not a certainty. In any event, we shouldn't be the ones making that choice. If it ever came out that we did ... and it would come out, you know that as well as I ..." Alastar did not finish the sentence, but he did not have to, he knew.
"It wouldn't be the end of the Collegium."
"If it weren't, it would come Namer-fired close." The Maitre of the Collegium Imago shook his head. "So we'll do our best to keep everyone at bay with everyone else until someone with sense shows up."
"As if anyone with sense would be stupid enough to let it be known," countered Cyran. "Do you know what Ryen wants?"
"No." Alastar stood, letting Cyran know that their talk was over. "I can hardly wait to find out what new scheme or pet peeve he's become obsessed with."
"Better you than me."
"Thank you, my friend." Alastar offered a warm smile, then watched as Cyran left the study. After a moment, he picked up a leather case and riffled through the papers inside, although he doubted that Ryen would wish to discuss what was contained in any of them, unless, of course, Alastar neglected to bring the folder. Then, after donning a riding jacket that matched his imager grays and the gray cap with its polished black leather visor, he made his way out of the study and along the corridor toward the older end of the administration building, that section constructed by the first imagers of the Collegium. That was a much different time. Much different.
He still found it almost unreal that he had been the second-highest imager at Westisle less than two months ago, or that Maitre Zhelan had turned down the opportunity to come to head the entire Collegium and had let it be known that Alastar should take the position. The more Alastar heard and saw, the more he understood at least some of the reasons Zhelan had demurred. At least, no one had asked him to go to Mont D'Image, the isolated northern town at the base of the Montagnes D'Glace that housed failed or disciplined imagers. He shuddered at that thought.
Outside the old main entrance, both his escorts were waiting, attired in the standard imager grays, with gray riding jackets and visor caps, given the stiff breeze and almost chill air of midfall. So was his mount, an older but not aged gray gelding, a symbolism that Alastar never voiced, but let others infer.
Although he could have summoned one of the Collegium carriages, he preferred to ride, even though that required two young imagers as escorts. While the two carried blades and truncheons, those were backed by imaging skills ranging from the simple expedient of imaging a cloud of fine pepper around the head of an assailant to imaging something into the body of an attacker.
Alastar looked at the gelding, murmured, "Here we go again, fellow," then mounted and urged the gelding forward. "The north bridge." He looked to the large gray stone dwelling at the north end of the green bordered by stone-paved lanes on each side. Unlike the family dwellings on each side of the green, it was two stories tall and extended a good forty yards across the front with a wide covered porch wrapping around it—a dwelling that would have been far too large for Alastar, a childless widower, were it not for his responsibilities for entertaining those within the Collegium and, occasionally, those from outside, although he had not done that in the brief time he had been on Imagisle. He turned toward the imager on his left. "How are your studies with Maitre Cyran coming, Belsior?"
"Well enough, sir."
"He mentioned that you have a tendency to be ... excessively enthusiastic in imaging iron darts."
"Yes, sir. He made me understand that."
Alastar smiled at the understatement, knowing that Cyran had made the young man, a solid third, who might someday possibly become a Maitre D'Aspect, image darts until he collapsed, in little more than a tenth of a glass, then walked up to the fallen Belsior and put a sabre at his throat. "He does have a way about him."
At that, Neiryn, the other third, nodded.
Before long, the three were riding across the north bridge over the River Aluse. Once on the west shore, they turned north on the West River Road, threading their way past a wagon moving south and piled with bales of hay.
The shops that lined the west side of the road were neat enough, Alastar reflected, but definitely showed their age, unlike those on the East River Road. As they neared a point opposite the north end of Imagisle, Alastar again marveled, as he had every time he saw them, at the gray stone ramparts that sheathed the entire shoreline of the isle that held the Collegium. He still had a hard time believing that the first maitre had created those walls in a single day, although that was the story. For his own reasons, Alastar was loath to disabuse that rumor, as, he suspected, had been every Collegium Maitre since the first one. Yet ... even in a month or a season?
At the west end of the Nord Bridge, the three turned their mounts onto the Boulevard D'Ouest, another wide stone-paved way said to have been created by the Collegium's first imagers, although the stones showed little if any wear, given that they had been laid nearly four hundred years earlier at the time of the consolidation of Solidar under Rex Regis. Then again, Alastar had to admit that those paving stones looked little different from the way the ones in Westisle had when he had first been an imager primus at that branch of the Collegium nearly thirty years ago.
As they rode closer to the Chateau D'Rex, the shops grew larger and their fronts newer, while the cafés and the occasional bakery sported awnings, although many of those were rolled up, most likely because of the brisk northwest wind. Where the boulevard intersected the ring road around the Chateau D'Rex, Alastar turned south and then took the lane up to the steps leading up to the main portico. At the foot of the steps, he dismounted and handed the gelding's reins to Belsior. "I have no idea how long I'll be here."
"Yes, sir," the two replied almost in unison.
Alastar took the steps, more than a score, reputedly imaged of near indestructible alabaster-like white stone by the Collegium's first imagers. He still wondered why they had not brought the approach lane higher so that there were fewer steps, but he supposed that was so that the grade to the stone plaza at the foot of the steps was gentle enough for wagons and carriages.
One of the guards escorted Alastar from the main entry up the grand staircase to the upper level of the chateau and then back along the north corridor to a chamber almost in the northeast corner, where another guard stood. The second guard rapped on the door. "Maitre Alastar, Your Grace."
"Send him in!"
The force of Ryen's words announced his mood, but Alastar smiled as he stepped into the study and walked toward the massive black oak desk that dominated the east end of the long chamber, on which were piled stacks of papers.
From where he sat behind the desk, the angular and near-cadaverous-looking Ryen glared. A too-long lock of black hair swept almost over his left eye. He wore a gold and gray striped tunic that did not become him over gray trousers, a far more conservative attire than that cultivated by most High Holders. "What took you so long?"
"The half-glass has not yet rung, sir."
"That doesn't matter. It still takes you too long to get here. It's not much more than a mille from Imagisle to the chateau."
"That is as the raven flies. There's no direct route from Imagisle to the chateau. I have to ride north to the Boulevard D'Ouest—"
"You've explained that before." Ryen smiled, the intense glare of the moment before instantly gone and replaced with an expression of total warmth. "We need to do something about that. I will obtain the land, and you and your imagers will build a new boulevard directly from the northern bridge ... the bridge of wishes or whatever ..."
"The Bridge of Desires," supplied the Collegium Maitre.
"... directly to the chateau."
"Just to the ring road around the chateau," suggested Alastar, well aware of the rex's very literal mindset.
Alastar refrained from sighing. "If we build it right to the entry portico, it will destroy your east gardens and make it harder for you and your family to get to the hunting park or the marshal's headquarters or anywhere else. The extra few hundred yards or so won't make any difference in the time it takes to get to and from Imagisle."
"To the ring road, then. But directly there from the bridge."
"Once you have arranged for the land, we will stand ready to begin work on the road. Now ... what was the matter for which you requested my presence?"
"High Holder Guerdyn has said that the High Holders of all Solidar may refuse to pay their annual tariffs if I increase them in the coming year."
Refuse to pay? Unprecedented as that sounded, it didn't surprise Alastar after the rhetorical rumblings over the past season.
"This year's tariffs?" Alastar knew tariffs were due by the end of Feuillyt, thirty-two days away. "Or next year's?"
"They haven't said. I haven't asked. Yet. It's likely to be this year's tariffs. Why else would they say that now? I have to announce next year's tariffs before this year's are due."
"You have to?"
"It's in the codex."
"What if you don't?" Who could make you?
"According to the codex, they don't have to pay this year's tariffs until I announce next year's."
"That could pose a problem ..." temporized Alastar, suspecting that if even a small fraction of the High Holders withheld tariff payments, Ryen—and the Collegium—would face difficult times before long, certainly within months, if not weeks.
"Pose a problem?" snapped Ryen. "There are Namer-fired few golds left in the treasury. They know that. There have been fewer every year by the end of harvest. That's why I need to increase the tariffs. They haven't been increased in years."
"What about the factors?"
"What about them? They don't have to pay, either."
"Could you leave the tariffs at the same level for next year, and say that they'll increase next year?"
"Are you an idiot, Maitre?!! That's how I got into this mess. That's what your predecessor suggested. Then he went and died."
Alastar managed not to swallow. Fhaen had never mentioned tariffs. Then, the former Maitre hadn't mentioned all too many problems. "Is Guerdyn speaking for himself or as chief of the High Council?"
"He can't speak for the High Council until they meet on the eighteenth of Feuillyt."
"Have you heard anything from the other four councilors?"
"Haebyn and Nacryon agree with Guerdyn. Moeryn and Vaun won't oppose me."
"Vaun won't be a councilor after Year-Turn," Alastar pointed out.
"I know that. I want you to do something about one of those against me."
"What would you suggest?"
"Whatever it takes." Ryen's smile vanished. "Those insufferable malcontents ... privileged and spoiled brats ... all of them ..."
"That may be, sir, but if any of those three vanish or die suddenly, everyone will blame you. They will as well if any of them takes ill this soon before the High Council meets."
"Then find a way to get one of them to change his mind." The rex's voice turned cold. "Your predecessor was less ..."
"Less willing to point out the unpleasantnesses? That is true." And that was one of the reasons why the senior imagers continued to support him until almost the end.
"I was sorry to learn of his passing." Ryen's voice softened, then turned colder once more. "You know that Demykalon doesn't like imagers, especially when they bring up the unpleasant."
"I'm well aware of the marshal's distaste for both scholars and imagers. Have you talked with him about this?"
"I'd prefer not to use force of arms at this point, or even threaten it. Haebyn and several others would refuse to pay until I put a battalion on his doorstep, and sending a battalion all the way to Piedryn would create problems I don't want to think about."
Alastar nodded. From what little he'd heard about Haebyn, and he had heard a few things, Haebyn never let go of a grudge, at least according to Maitre Zhelan.
"I'd end up having troopers riding everywhere. That would cost more golds. I won't countenance spending golds to obtain them. I won't!" Ryen's voice rose not quite to a shout.
Alastair waited a long moment. "The High Holders might raise private armies in return, and we'd have a civil war on our hands." And because some of the commanders come from High Holder families, they might well not obey orders to discipline other High Holders.
"I'm glad you include the Collegium as part of 'we.'" Ryen waved toward the study door. "Let me know when you've taken care of the problem."
"I'll look into it," replied Alastar. "Then we'll see."
"If you don't solve it, I'll have to cut the golds to the Collegium, you know."
"I'm well aware of the source of much of our funding, but at times, tightening one's belt is preferable to slitting one's throat." Or the throats of innocent students and young imagers, which is more to the point.
"I won't press the point, Maitre, but an increase in tariffs would serve us all far better than belt-tightening. That would only encourage more attempts to throttle us both in the future."
Alastar nodded, if reluctantly, although Ryen was doubtless right. He turned and made his way from the rex's study, well aware that Ryen's gaze had turned to the window even before Alastar closed the study door on his way out.
Excerpted from Madness in Solidar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.. Copyright © 2015 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just a question. Will we ever read anymore about Rhenn? The whole "series"(and I use the term lightly) is well written and I've enjoyed every book I have read by Modesitt since the 1980s. Are we going to be reading another sub-series here, or will we go back to the original story arc from the first 3 books? I think it's in the autor's best interests not to call the last six books as part of the original imager's portfolio. It's confusing and dissapointing when you buy book 4 in a hurry to continue your journey and find out it has ended, and you are now reading a completely new series. I have to admit that I made this mistake twice now, and it took me months to read the book I'd just purchased simply because it had nothing to do with the series. The only tie-in is that the main charcter can image. I'm not sure I'll be reading any more Modesitt until his books have been out several years, that way I won't be blindsided again. For new Modesitt readers- Be sure to pay close attention to the description of the story before buying. Especially important with e-books as they usually do not give you any information. This is how I made my mistake. Good luck and good reading.
The only fault with this book is that I sat up and read till I was done, and than wanted the next book in the series. L E Modesitt's books just keep getting better and I always reread then. Something I don't do with many authors.
L.E. Modesitt is one of the best fantasy authors writing today. His books are entertaining, thoughtful, and have a depth that is lacking in many other fantasy novels. If you're a fan of fantasy, or just a good book you should read his novels. The Imager series is interesting, and original. Mr. Modesitt's world building skills are second to none. His characters are well rounded, and have depth. I've read every single one of his novels, and I've never been disappointed. Buy this book, and then buy every other book in the Imager series. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Simply put, I adore L.E. Modesitt Jr. I collect the Recluse and Imager series. In fact, the Recluse series was what started my love of sci-fi/fantasy genre. With that said, my absolute only complaint with the Imager series is that there is a lot that is left unsaid and not totally explained. I don't need the author to 'spell it out' for me, but a lot of times I feel like with this series in particular, the material left unsaid is just to wide to come up with a good explanation for why something works or happens. If you are new to the Imager series, I would recommend starting at the beginning. Or if you like thing in chronological order, you need to start with the books about Quaeryt - Scholar. That starts an explanation of how this story comes about. All in all, I love this series. And yet again, Mr. Modesitt has made another world that I want to hang out in and learn more about. He really does a great job of creating worlds in your mind that you could honestly believe exist.
Enjoy all of his books
Alastar's revamping of the Collegium and the story about the transition from Rex to Council is very interesting. It has interesting parallels to our current poltical situation. I am looking forward to the follow-up!
Understand that I really like the series, even if I do get a little tired of reading about the Service of the Nameless so much that I could practically recite it by heart. But this addition to the series was awful. I felt like I started reading the story halfway through, the characters were flat and uninspiring, and the central drama in the story seemed contrived at best. I wouldn't waste money on this one. You won't be missing anything if you skip it.
Excellent addition to the series, not a normal Modesitt story with some one coming into power, this story stars someone who is already near the max of his power. Filling in the gaps in the series and helps to understand the current world in the Imager universe.
Modesitt continues the story of the imagers in Solidar with outstanding plot and character development.
This is a good book and a fast read; I assume there will be more with this cast. Only problem is that Alastar (the protagonist) shifts quickly from someone just learning about a new place and trying not to get into violent situations into someone quite comfortable with murder and regicide. There is an explanation, but not much soul-searching about it beforehand. Still, the good guys win and the bad guys lose and I to read more about them.
Political intrigue in Solidar... Fills in more of the history of the setting.