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Treachery's Tools
The Tenth Book of the Imager Portfolio
by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor Books,, $27.99, 510pp
Published: October 2016

Alastar, Maitre of the Collegium of Imagers and advisor to Lorien D’ Rex,  is increasingly concerned by the intensifying rivalries between the High Holder families who own most of the land and the Factor families who increasingly own most of the money.  Floods have caused several seasons of bad harvests, so price-gouging is an irritant, as are tariffs, and gambling debts, and rivalries. Violence is on the rise, and it is only a matter of time before the students at the Collegium are affected.  Alastar at first only wonders, then suspects, and eventually realizes that real malice and planning are behind the turbulence, and the targets are being carefully chosen. 

If you think about the book’s title, you realize how subtle it is, and you will be prepared for the subtleties of the unfolding plot. Modesitt uses the language and setting of fantasy to delineate how escalating economy-based wars are waged and how power struggles tear apart a society.  The most interesting element of the story, I thought, was when several characters know a certain imager is dangerous, but have absolutely no evidence of any wrong-doing on his part, and so have no grounds for taking action against him.  How does one square one’s social conscience with one’s intuitive radar?  This storyline held me absolutely riveted, and the tile alerted me to look for instigators who quietly keep themselves apart from the actions they foment.

Another component of this series that I find wonderful is that the power of imaging is, at one level, a metaphor for the power of imagination to make new realities.  At a profound level, every time someone reads these stories, they are being encouraged to image a better reality. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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