Imager by L.E. Modesitt reads as if Modesitt took Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and decided to map it over one of his usual Recluse plots. Imager is supposed to be a new series, but it has all the old familiar elements of Modesitt’s Recluse books. There’s the usual young protagonist who can’t seem to focus on what his parents want him to do, who discovers he has magic powers and has to learn to use them while being denied relevant information by a mentor figure. On the other hand the plot also has similarities to The Name of the Wind, with that book’s University and its Masters showing up as the Collegium and its Masters, right down to an Ambrose like figure.
But unlike Rothfuss, Modesitt gets stuck again with world building that has no real imagination to it. The magical system of Imaging is generic and limited. And the world he creates boils down once again to wrangling countries and politics, with doses of Modesitt’s own philosophy delivered again through mentors and tomes. Determined to create a series, Modesitt doesn’t even bother wrapping up most of the plot of Imager, though he does throw in the usual explosion that leaves the imager unconscious (if you took scenes like that out of Modesitt’s Recluse novels, you’d be left with around two pages) as a climax.
The comparison between Name of the Wind and Imager is not in Modesitt’s favor. Because Modesitt again trots out a dull main character who spends most of his time learning things and thinking about how little he knows. This is filled out with Modesitt’s love for describing woodcraft and everything anyone eats in the book. Where Rothfuss brought the power of Naming to life, Modesitt inflicts rambling lectures about the evils of naming things. As usual, Modesitt has written a book about magic that has no magic in it, reducing the amazing to just another job in between other jobs. That’s his message, but it’s also a hopeless imagination killer.
And Imager is Modesitt rewriting his Recluse books again, even ending it by having his forgettable main character signed up to work with the patrollers, a plot that he recently used in one of his Recluse books. In the introduction, Modesitt mentions that he’s written 50 books. Maybe he should slow down and put more thought into the books he writes.