Excellent world building and superb magic system with an annoyingly dense but affable young adult protagonist on a quest. Lerris is ‘the chosen one’ but for all the wrong reasons or completely mysterious hidden reasons until he’s painted himself into a corner with his fumbling choices. Lerris isn’t burdened with a prophecy, but he resists the status quo of Recluce. Lerris is just your typical young adult with attention deficit disorder (i.e., he’s bored and finds everything boring), but Recluce doesn’t prescribe Ritalin. Somewhat like extreme Amish, Recluce peacefully forces their misfits to either exile permanently or go on dangergeld (similar to rumspringa but with a quest attached), during which they must decide if they can return to Recluce and succumb to its creed and worldview (seeking perfection in Order). This novel follows Lerris on his journey as a dangergelder until he understands all that Recluce embodies and effects, and reaches his decision.
If you are looking for a story with character growth, Lerris’ journey as an exile from Recluce will fit that bill. If you are looking for a new fantasy world with a detailed history, divergent societies, a logical robust magic system, with a different spin on the age-old struggle between angels and demons, good and evil, black and white, order and chaos, then you’ve come to the right story and series.
Modesitt’s Recluce series reminds me of Asimov’s robot stories. He sets up a scenario with some basic, seemingly simple rules (for example, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and Modesitt’s Order/Chaos balance system as glimpsed through snippets of The Basis of Order) and proceeds to challenge those rules with his world and its characters. While each novel adds a piece of the broader puzzle, for the most part, like this first one, the books stand alone quite well.
November is L.E. Modesitt, Jr. month at the GoodReads SciFi and Fantasy Book Club. The author will be joining in the discussions of both books later this month.