Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Magic of Recluce

The Magic of Recluce
by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Recommended Ages: 14+

Lerris has grown up in the island nation of Recluce, where he finds the perfect order enforced at every level of society to be boring, and where he is constantly frustrated in his attempts to get answers about why things have to be that way. So, after his disinterest in pursuing perfection brings his woodworking apprenticeship to a premature end, he is offered a choice by the ruling Brotherhood: exile for life, or a quest across a foreign country, called a dangergeld, from which he may return only if he decides to embrace Recluce's order - and, of course, only if he survives.

After training with a group of hard-case dangergelders, Lerris ships off to the Candar, where he immediately finds himself on the run from forces that consider Recluce and its order-masters a threat to the public good. In place of the black-robed brotherhood, Candar is dominated by white wizards wielding the power of chaos, which is usually allied with evil. In spite of some help from a "gray wizard" who has learned to balance the forces of order and chaos, Lerris traces an increasingly lonely path across the continent, trying to find his own answers to the questions nobody else would ever answer for him. Meantime, he learns by painful experience that even trying to do good and increase order often results in more chaos, keeping the young man on the run with little more to aid him than a black oak staff and a tough pony named Gairloch.

Lerris has an adventure full of tension, action, magic, and a little romance. Frequently funny, now and then deeply sad, marbled with mysteries, and populated with living characters who move against a fascinating background of land and culture, it is especially notable for the rich storytelling possibilities of its unique conception of magic. The pacing is good, the dialogue is clever, and the narrative style has some stylish quirks that tend to grow on one - for example, a heavy reliance on onomatopoeic sound effects, such as "Wheeeee eeeee" for Gairloch's neighing. I would only ding the writing for a couple of glaring redundancies, like a paragraph that says the same thing twice, or a sentence that uses the same adjective twice. These are possibly the kind of goofs that happen when a writer produces a tremendous amount of material in a short time; even editors can only work so fast without missing things.

Apropos, this book's Utah-based author has published more than 70 novels by my count. He is best known for the "Saga of Recluce" series, of which this 1991 book was the first. Among the other books in the series are prequels and stories featuring other characters. The second book in the series is The Towers of Sunset, but it isn't until Book 5, The Death of Chaos, that the adventures of Lerris resume. The saga's 19th installment is due for release in October 2017. Some of his other books are the "Ecolitan" quartet, the "Forever Hero" trilogy, the five-book "Spellsong Cycle," the "Johann Eschbach" trilogy, the eight-book "Correan Chronicles," the 11-book "Imager Portfolio," and such stand-alone titles as Hammer of Darkness, Gravity Dreams, The Elysium Commission, and Solar Express.

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