First of a new trilogy set on the world of Terahnar, set hundreds of years before the previous books (Imager's Intrigue, 2010, etc.), where a handful of people have the power to create objects through visualization.
Little except the politics is different in this earlier incarnation. The continent of Lydar is divided into three states, belligerent Bovaria, watchful Antiago and Telaryn, which ten years previously conquered neighboring Tilbor. Telaryn's young, talented ruler, Bhayar, concerned about the ambitions of Bovaria, suggests to Quaeryt, a young scholar whose advice he values, that troops might be withdrawn from the occupation of Tilbor for redeployment along the border with Bovaria. Quaeryt disclaims knowledge of the situation in Tilbor and, to further his long-term plans—although Modesitt declines to do more than hint at what these might entail—allows Bhayar to persuade him to travel to Tilbor and report. Quaeryt is secretly an imager, or wizard, as well as a scholar. Astonishingly, before he leaves, Bhayar's beautiful and highly intelligent younger sister, Vaelora, speaks with him and gives him a personal letter. Surviving footpads, power-mad police, shipwreck, poisoning and the hostility of his fellow-scholars, Quaeryt arrives in Tilbor, where he finds that the governor, Rescalyn, has quietly accreted and trained an army vastly larger than anybody suspected, ostensibly to defend the people against the rebellious High Holders of the hill country. After combing through the records, Quaeryt realizes he might need to risk his own life to uncover the truth. Modesitt has only one style: subtle intrigues anchored in vividly drawn, complex characters, stiffly formal conversations and descriptional arabesques in tones of gray.
Perhaps the best so far in this consistently fascinating series.