Second part of a prequel fantasy trilogy (Scholar, 2011, etc.).
In this world, wizards are called "Imagers" because the process involves the intense, precise and accurate visualization of the magic's objective. Previously, scholar (and secret imager) Quaeryt, ordered by Lord Bhayar of Telaryn to subdue the unruly High Holders of recently-conquered Tilbor, led troops in battle and was promoted to Princeps. Now Telaryn is threatened by Rex Kharst of belligerent Bovaria; unfortunately the city Extela has been devastated by a volcanic eruption, so Bhayar orders his troops to readiness while dispatching Quaeryt as governor of the province. So Quaeryt has the all-but-impossible job of restoring the city's essential functions even though the people are starving, the former governor has absconded with ill-gotten gains, the police are all in hiding, and the High Holders are only concerned with taking advantage of the situation. And Quaeryt must also deal with the aristocratic inclinations of his intelligent and beautiful but difficult wife Vaelora, Bhayar's sister, while nursing his own covert ambitions to restore the colleges of scholars and imagers, which have withered from neglect and local hostilities. After working the requisite miracles while mightily displeasing the entrenched power structure, Quaeryt receives orders from Bhayar to take his three regiments to Ferravyl, where the Bovarian invasion is imminent. Once again Modesitt shows us how one man of integrity, talent and determination achieves his aims—and the price that inevitably must be paid.
Not a standout entry, but solidly engrossing nonetheless.