Released: June 21, 2011 (special anniversary edition)
Publisher: Tor Books
Author's Website: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/
Buy it: Amazon
Obtained: publisher review copy
Genre: epic fantasy
Series: Saga of Recluce
1. The Magic of Recluce
2. The Towers of the Sunset
3. The Magic Engineer
4. The Order War
5. The Death of Chaos
6. Fall of Angels
7. The Chaos Balance
8. The White Order
9. Colors of Chaos
10. Magi'i of Cyador
11. Scion of Cyador
12. Wellspring of Chaos
14. Natural Ordermage
15. Mage-Guard of Hamor
An epic adventure world that has so far spanned fifteen novels and has run for twenty years was launched in The Magic of Recluce, a triumph of fantasy. Young Lerris is dissatisfied with his life and trade, and yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. But in Recluce a change in circumstances means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce, with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. Lerris chooses dangergeld.
When Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, it soon becomes clear that he has a natural talent for magic. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. Though it goes against all of his instincts, Lerris must learn to use his powers in an orderly way before his wanderjahr, or fall prey to Chaos.
My Rating: 3 Dragons
I’ll preface this review by saying this book was neither good nor bad. It fell very firmly into the middle “meh” scale for Book Dragon.
My issue with this is that I usually quite like stories that go into the mechanics of magic/world building and that put believable obstacles in the path of the hero(es). Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, and George R.R. Martin (just to name a few) are some of the epic fantasy authors who do this very well.
The problem with The Magic of Recluce is that it dips too much into the significance of economics and the magic system. While I do enjoy a little bit of the “whys and wherefores” of a world to be sprinkled into the narrative, I don’t enjoy an entire book dedicated to the subject. You learn alongside the main character, Lerris, as he discovers why it is Recluce does not allow anyone who questions their ways too closely to remain, why the elders are secretive about just about everything, and the differences between Chaos and Order (magic).
Over time, Lerris grows as a person (which is good, because he’s not a particularly likeable fellow to start out with), so I can see why this might be considered a “coming of age” novel. However, at over 400 pages in the trade paperback version, I believe the same story could have been told in half the word count and it would not have suffered from the trimming.
My only other complaint was that the entire narrative felt distant. It was described beautifully, but I never felt any sense of urgency for Lerris or anyone else, and I never felt emotionally engaged with any of the characters, except maybe for the girl he had to leave behind in Fenard. I kept waiting for the action to start—and realized this was a problem that would be prevalent throughout the entire story once I hit the halfway point and was still feeling a bit like I was waiting for something important to happen.
Oddly enough, you could consider Lerris to have been on an epic journey. His travels took him very far from his home, he learned quite a lot about the land, its peoples, and himself, and he defeated an evil Chaos wizard.
And yet… it was all so distant.
The emphasis on the details was all on the insignificant things that really didn’t need to be delved into so thoroughly. Did we really need those passages out of the book for masters of Order? Why did the author go into such detail about the debates held in the classrooms before Lerris and the other dangergelders left Recluce without actually teaching the reader anything, and even go into detail about what Lerris ate and fed his mountain pony over most of his trip across Gandar, yet was so skimpy on the details when it finally came to the wizard battles you could hardly tell what had happened? I admit to being somewhat disgruntled about this as a reader. If even a fraction of the attention given to the details of the world building had been given to the action scenes, this would have been a far more entertaining read.
As terrible as this review may make it sound, it is not a bad book. If you like ponderous epic fantasy, you may enjoy this story. As it was, it reminded Book Dragon a little too much of the over-politicking in the later Wheel of Time books. I will not be going out of my way to pick up any of the other books in the series, but might read them if I should come across them elsewhere (such as the library, or the $0.50 bargain bin at a used book store).