Imager by LE Modesitt Jr
Review by Koen Peters
Imager is the story of a young portraiturist, Rhennthyl, struggling through life. He shows great potential while painting but isn’t allowed to prosper due to the strict rules of his guild. One day, when he tries to paint someone’s eyes he notices that he could’ve painted them perfectly if only he had a certain colour. Sadly enough that colour (Imager’s green) is extremely expensive and thus unavailable to a simple journeyman. When he looks back to his canvas in resignation something weird had happened, the eyes were captured on canvas. Correctly.
Welcome to the world of Imagers, where your mind can decide what is, and what is not. In Terahnar, some people are born with a rare gift. The gift of Imaging. Imaging is the art of changing reality in small ways. Conjuring a pen from nowhere, a blotch of ink to get that art piece just right. Or even replace the contents of that glass of juice with something a little less benevolent. In short, Imagers have a lot of potential and thus are commonly feared by normal people. In Solidar, where Rhennthyl lives, the Imagers have their own guild, the Collegium, and they follow strict rules to keep everyone at peace. The severe punishments carried out by the guild on acts like using Imaging for you own gain or to harm another make sure that the government of Solidar allows the Imagers to remain. Of course, arrangements like providing certain rare ores and other expensive materials might have something to do with that too.
When Rhennthyl joins the Collegium he gets trained at a rapid pace. While most people discover their Imaging talent before becoming an apprentice, Rhennthyl discovered his a lot later, several years in his training to become a master portraiturist. Therefore he has a lot of catching up to do, and so from sunrise to sundown he gets private lessons in all sorts of subjects. While exercising they notice that Rhennthyl has remarkable talent and he progresses through the ranks at a rapid pace. Especially his background is a great help in comprehending how Imaging works, since Imaging is an art of its own. When his private lessons even continue after he caught up with his peers, he finds out that he’s being trained for more than being a ‘casual’ Imager.
I’ll leave the story at that, and go on to the more important parts of the book. What I really liked is that the author is very wise, and provides a constant stream of expressions that make you think. For instance every chapter starts with an almost philosophical remark and most of the time the chapter illustrates that remark. Since a chapter is usually only about five pages that makes for a lot of remarks that make you think! Also, a large part of Rhenn’s training consists of both political and philosophical subjects, resulting in brain-teasing lessons not only for Rhenn but for you as well, if you so choose. Of course, you can just let all that pass by and continue with the story but if you’re a bit into philosophy it’s just great to think about everything before going on! At first the remarks are of a more artistic nature since it’s about his life as a journeyman and as his life changes, so does the nature of the remarks. Some examples are “The world and its parts are as they are; accuracy is a term man applies to his small creations”, “Love is both a name and an act; too often the name triumphs”, and “Perfection can lead to great imperfection”. Throughout the story, Rhenn visits services. They provide a very interesting religion and especially the homilies are well thought-out. They’re all connected to how we perceive things, and how that can lead us to fallacies.
The world and its inhabitants are realistic and well thought-out, and so is the Imaging-system. Art and perception are the major components of the story, while subtlety and secrecy gain in importance as it progresses. And of course, a tinge of love is never absent. It’s remarkable how a fast-paced story and brain teasers are combined.
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