The Magic of Recluce (Special 20th Anniversary Edition) came to me thanks to a Goodreads giveaway.
L.E. Modesitt Jr. is a name that I am used to seeing. Going to a used book sale or any used book store and looking through the fantasy section without seeing his name seems impossible. So, when I happened to get this book via giveaway, I decided to give it a gander. “High fantasy at its best” is how I would describe the book. This is by no means a fast-paced book and that will deter some people. But for the reader looking for something more Tolkien than Rowling, it is truly excellent.
The magic system is largely what makes The Magic of Recluce so unique. This world has two magical forces; chaos and order. While they are generally seen as “chaos = bad, order = good”, this is not universally true. It falls more along the line of the Dungeons and Dragons alignment chart. You can be “Lawful Evil” or “Chaotic Good”, those individuals just tend to be rarer. Beyond that, the magic follows some typical light/dark principles. Chaos magic is more offensive, order is more defensive (destruction vs. creation/preservation). The only thing that may throw readers is that Chaos mages are called White mages and Order folks are Black mages, as opposed to the usual motif of black magic being destructive and white magic being healing spells and such.
The way magic is perceived shapes the Recluce and beyond. Recluce is the “land of Order”. Everything there is made from near-perfect Order. And anything (or anyone) who does not fit that bill is thrown out. This is where the main character, Lerris, finds himself. He lives in a place of pure Order and finds it really, really boring. The little journey of self-discovery this sends him on is not a fast-paced trip. There are some wizard battles and moments of action here and there, but in between are many pages about Lerris walking from town to town and such. If you have read any high fantasy before, you know what to expect.
High fantasy is not for everyone, but even people who find it grueling can enjoy this. It is as much of a coming of age story as a fantasy and shows that even wizards can just live life and do everyday things. Heroes do not spend every day saving the world; some days you just work so you can eat. The Magic of Recluce is book 1 in a long series so I imagine it gets even better from here.