L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Magic of Recluce
Tor Books 1991

Lerris is bored. Bored of the philosophical discussions of Wandernaught, his home village, bored of woodworking with his uncle Sardit in Mattra, bored of every dull and perfect little thing on Recluce. To not be satisfied with the Reclucian way of life is to not follow the rules, and if you don't follow the rules of the country, you just have to leave. It's called the dangergeld, and every year a couple of men and women who doesn't behave in the proper and perfect way are sent on it. Few are allowed to come back.

Still in his teens, Lerris is sent to the southern harbour town of Nylan to get some education on living in the chaotic world abroad. How to use different weapons, and the theory of order and chaos, for instance. Among the other dangergelders educated there are the feminist Tamra (who thinks order is just male dominance) and the always giggling Krystal, who is considered unwilling to concentrate. Lerris is attracted to both of them. Before leaving for Freetown on the continent of Candor, Lerris is also told that he has the potential to become a powerful order master, but that he also can choose chaos - although that probably would kill him. He also receives his instructions for the dangergeld - to travel through Candor alone and not return until he knows he is ready.

And then they go, to the chaotical continent of Candor, with its kingdoms struggling against each other, and its chaos masters. An adventure all set on Recluce wouldn't be very interesting - I fully agree with Lerris opinion that Recluce is boring. In Modesitt's world, order almost equals good, while chaos is close to evil. I think I get the points, but I'm still not really satisfied with good so systematically being boring. But it's the same in Superman, I guess, the bad guys are always more interesting than the nice and strong jerk in the blue bodysuit.

Apart from this little dissatisfaction, I think the order-chaos dichotomy in magic is an excellent idea. And innovative. Fantasy magic seldom is. There is the usual role-playing magic, there is magic inspired by the western occult tradition, or other traditions in our world. But Modesitt has created something different, and that's quite unique. Especially as the system is believable. I think this book is worth reading just to get some knowledge about the magic of Recluce.

But there is a lot more. There's the story about Lerris' travels across the continent of Candor. It's not a story where everything is closely related to everything else, but a collection of stories about what's happening with Lerris. But there is also the struggle between him and a powerful chaos wizard, and of course about Lerris becoming a very powerful order master.

As I've already said, the continent of Candor is much more interesting than Recluce. It's also populated by colourful and not too orderly, ordinary people. Modesitt really make them come alive. They create a good setting for the story about Lerris, but the main focus is still on order and chaos, good and evil and what to do with your magical abilities. And that's alright with me.

Karl Henriksson

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Books by the same author:
The Towers of the Sunset

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Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.