Review of Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt. Reviewed on May 30th, 2013.
Antiagon Fire is the fourth book in L.E.Modesitt's second Imager series. The first series,a trilogy composed of Imager, Imager's Challenge, and Imager's Intrigue were set in a location that is very reminiscent of 1890s Paris. The second series, Scholar, Princeps, Imager's Batallion, Antiagon Fire, and the final book in the second series, Rex Regis, are set many hundreds of years earlier in the same world. If I had to guess at a parallel date, I'd guess at around 1500CE for this second series, since they have cannon, but individual firearms ('muskets') are still rare. But the defining feature of Modesitt's world here is the fact that 'imaging' exists. Imaging is the ability of some rare individuals to call into existence things with their thoughts. As with all Modesitt magic, its use has real and hard limits. The point of the books is almost certainly one of exploring how intangible power such as imaging would impact the politics, government, power struggles, warfare, and personal interactions of a society. By throwing this fantastical element into a world very similar to our own in most other aspects, the author provides a very telling study of human nature and the way that our social structures actually function.
Occasionally, Modesitt's desire to study the effects of his scenario can tend to overwhelm the human story at the center. Both Imager series, on the other hand, have done a pretty fair job of balancing the story with the intellectual introspection by the author. This second series, in particular, and most particularly in this latest book, has done a very good job of providing main characters that you can care about. Quaeryt, the protagonist of the entire second Imager series, has reached a point in his personal and status growth where his long-term goals are become more and more focused. The results of these plans are also becoming more concrete, often in ways that are devastating to everyone who stands in his way. Quaeryt's wife Vaelora here becomes an even more important and evolving character. As usual, the author can write very smart, compelling female characters, which is sometimes not the case in other fantasy fiction.