Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: The Magic of Recluce, by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

So this is not a new book, but I just finished reading it after hearing about it from a number of friends. All in all, I thought it was an interesting and at times fun read. I liked it enough to want to read more about this land based in chaos and order, and I will chalk up some inconsistencies and irritations to a somewhat new author (at the time of publish - if you aren't aware, Modesitt is very prolific now but this book was published back in '92). From what I know of the author he had published some short stories and a couple other books by this time, but he may have still held a day job - making the tasks of being an author somewhat difficult as anyone trying can understand first hand.

This Epic Fantasy novel is centered on young Lerris, a potential order-master though he doesn't know it at first. Intelligent, but bored by the orderly life of Recluce, he is thrust into exile where he must discover and use hidden powers while he tries to stay alive long enough to discover his purpose. There are many things he takes for granted in life, and others he questions without fail, though he accepts his exile fairly readily besides calling it unfair.

The book starts with too much description of the physical world, and too little of what else is happening. Though it is in first person perspective and therefore somewhat correct based on the character's experiences, it could have been dialed down for one and up for the other to make it a more engaging read. The story finds itself when the boy leaves Freetown and runs into Justen - a gray wizard. It builds power and Lerris' character starts to shine during his time in the town of Fenard. But after leaving to keep new friends out of danger and continue his journey of purpose it becomes rushed and loses some of its logic. His purpose is suddenly realized to find and confront a powerful chaos-master. Though his realization of this and several other things throughout the story just sort of happen. The perspective makes this seem especially jarring. Instead of taking advantage of a climatic realization, these points just pop into existence without offering any real satisfaction - or for that matter logic. This happens in particular when he realizes the identity of Justen and the exploits of his father.

I was also not a fan of the sound description of various events, such as horse neighing, thunder, shoes clinking, etc. I would have preferred a normal description of the sound, not a translation of the sound into text. Though more disappointing to me was the same strategy used for battles. Every battle I can recall was described very briefly, taking up only a couple lines. This took away from the tension, and just seemed a little strange. My assumption would be that the author was not comfortable writing a fighting scene and therefore used that method to avoid it. I was left wanting more at these points, to understand more about what Lerris was thinking and doing to fight them off in these tangible and intangible battles.

One of the highlights of the story is the whole chaos vs. order play, which though not entirely unique, is more substantially present in this story then most I've read before. There is some philosophy that is interesting and perceptive, though there are also some loose pieces that could have probably been chucked. All in all I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book, but it might be a start to something good - the series is quite long. When I've read the second I'll be able to better say. I'd compare it in quality to maybe just below Feist's early work which to me ranged up and down in quality throughout at least his first few books.

What are your thoughts, did you like the book? What is your favorite Modesitt novel/series?


  1. Heh.

    You are in for some surprises.

    Let me tell you this - I don't necessarily disagree with you. My first impression of this book was, "Why is Lerris such a whiner!"

    I was also absolutely sure he would get the girl he'd always wanted in the end, cuz, that's what happens, right? So, twists are good.

    I think you need to read the next book, but I will give you a warning: Timeline wise, it takes place WELL BEFORE the one you just read...

    And yes, the Chaos/Order balance is fascinating, and it only gets better as the books progress.


  2. True, he did whine a lot, but it was mostly passive whining. I thought he should have been a little more pissed that he was being kicked out of the country.

    At first I thought he'd end up with Tamra, but then it certainly seemed more likely to be Krystal.

    I'll definitely read the next one. I've got to read The Gathering Storm first though, hopefully I can pick up my library hold this week (all of my collection is paperback, so the hardback just wouldn't mesh with them).

    I'll be very interested to see where he goes with the chaos/order balance. Especially as that is an element in my series I'm writing, though so far he works it in in a much more significant role.


Thanks for reading, now tell me what you think.