cover image Isolate


L.E. Modesitt Jr. Tor, $29.99 (608p) ISBN 978-1-250-77740-9

Modesitt (the Saga of Recluce series) impresses with the debut volume of his Grand Illusion political fantasy series, which skillfully melds mystery and supernatural elements. In the vividly drawn world of Guldor, empaths—those with the ability to project strong emotions unto others—serve a variety of functions, including acting as muscle and sex workers. Coal is Guldor’s main energy source, so the suspected corruption in the awarding of lucrative mining leases to Eastern Ironway causes a major scandal implicating the official responsible, Jhared Kraffeist, Minister of Public Resources. After the director of logistics for Eastern Ironway disappears, a member of Guldor’s ruling council dies from a supposed heart attack, and another councilor, Axel Obreduur, is targeted by an empathic attack, Obreduur’s security aide, Steffan Dekkard, investigates possible connections between the three events. Dekkard is an isolate, one of the few immune to empathic projections, and his inquiries enable Modesitt to present the intricacies of Guldor’s economic and political systems without devolving into heavy exposition. The detailed politics could make for a dry opening salvo, but in Modesitt’s capable hands the setup becomes a taut thriller. This superior book only whets the appetite for a sequel. (Oct.)