The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a book where patience proves to be a virtue. It started very slowly, with an almost tedious amount of detail. As I continued to read, it started to make sense.
This is a book about the battle between two opposing forces: chaos and order. The tedious amount of detail really ties into this story, for it defined the foundation of Recluce. Recluce is a city of almost pure order. Everything is so perfect and ordered that it is perceived as being boring to our hero, Lerris. Any persons who compromise that order are exiled. Our hero is such a person. But, like any good heroic fantasy, this reluctant, unlikely hero does save the day.
Lerris was a bit annoying at first, like one of those eternally bored youngsters that made my life miserable when I taught. I don't think I've ever seen the word 'boring' so much in my life. When I was a kid, I was not allowed to be 'bored', so I don't have much patience for people who go through life bored with everything. Fortunately, I came to see how this plays a role in the story. Lerris is looking for answers. He's like the kid who always asks 'why' about everything, wanted to be told instead of finding out the answers for himself. His exile from Recluce turns out to be the making of him. He finds a strength and a purpose over the course of this novel that can only be gained the hard way, through action and practice.
At first, I didn't think Mr. Modesitt's style of writing was going to work for me, but then I began to appreciate it. His attention to detail is very important to the narrative. I especially liked his descriptions of woodworking. I am not very good with my hands, despite being a decent artist and gardener. I do respect those who can build functional things with their hands. Lerris's approach to woodworking--initially one of boredom and disinterest, which changed to one of intense focus and commitment to perfection--was a metaphor for his maturation from boy to man. He has a hard, often lonely road ahead of him in this novel. Seeing that slow, often painful growth made me come to love him as a hero. He showed that his heart was in the right place, although he seemed so disinterested and self-absorbed initially.
The magic system was very interesting. It turned a a big thing on its head as far as conventions: the black wizards are the good wizards, and the white wizards are the evil wizards. That was an unique twist that I liked. I was surprised that I figured out some of how the chaos versus order dynamic worked. I was putting the pieces together along with Lerris. I liked how the order in persons and things were manipulated by Lerris and his eventual mentor, gray (mostly black but a little white) wizard, Justen. That was their power as order-masters. And it wasn't just a matter of creating things to solve problems. If done wrongly or for the wrong motives, this could become an act of chaos. Lerris had to continually weigh his actions to make sure he wasn't doing that. As I read, I wondered what could and couldn't be done and stay on the side of order.
Although this story is focused on Lerris, there are some interesting secondary characters, and quite a lot of strong, well-developed women characters. I liked that the women were in powerful roles, often serving in the military and as soldiers. Krystal turned out to be a good character, showing her own evolution in character for the best. And I loved Lerris trusty mountain pony, Gairloch. He's quite the boon companion.
I am the risk of being long-winded, so I'll bring this review to a close. This was a very good book. I'm glad I hung in there and kept reading past the slow beginning, and that I paid attention. Mr. Modesitt lays a powerful foundation for this story, and everything ties in together. I appreciate being recommended this story by a fellow Goodreads friend. I will definitely continue reading this series. Recommended to readers who like an intricate fantasy story.
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