Another entry in the astonishingly productive Modesitt’s fantasy series (Imager’s Challenge, 2009, etc.) set in L’Excelsis, capital of Solidar, a country that bears more than a passing resemblance to 19th-century France.
Rhennthyl, a powerful “imager” (as wizards are known here) and security operative is also a captain of police, and only a little distracted by his beautiful wife Seliora and their three-year-old daughter Diestrya. But several ominous developments are stirring great unease at the Collegium Imago and among the Civil Patrol and the Council of Solidar. A new, very powerful strain of the addictive narcotic, elveweed, is flooding into the ghettos, and addicts are dying like flies—including one of Seliora’s cousins—despite Rhennthyl’s careful handling of drug runners and crime bosses. In the east, meanwhile, freeholders—merchants, farmers and manufacturers—are almost at civil war with the High Holders, the aristocracy, over trade policy and perquisites. Patrol subcommander Cydarth may be corrupt and certainly is plotting to supplant his superior. Jariola and Ferrum, two neighboring countries, are about to go to war, while secret agents steal and transport armaments within the walls of L’Excelsis itself. Modesitt capably integrates believable fantasy elements into a story centered on characters who work at real jobs and have private lives. His weakness is obsessive detail: a person can’t just walk into a room; we have to hear all about the architecture, décor and furnishings.
Overstuffed but consistently, well, intriguing in every sense.