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Book Review: The Magic of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt Jr.


Genre: Epic Fantasy
Author: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Pub. Date: May 1992 REISSUE
Series: Recluce Series, #1
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 512pp
Publisher: Tor Books

The Magic of Recluce is a work that has an appreciative and wide audience. I wonder why. There is little to recommend the book. The story is slow and wandering, the sentences choppy and stilted, words are used as synonyms or antonyms which no thesaurus would recognize, and battle scenes rely entirely on onomatopoeia and lacks any description, save only the end result. L.E. Modesitt presents to his readers a mediocre work, with little style or characterization.

The story itself is slow moving, heavily reliant on the word �boring� to describe the feelings of the main character, and it seems purposeless for almost two hundred pages. It tells the story of a young man from the island nation of Recluce, doomed to provide service to the nation by undertaking dangergeld (sort of an epic quest in service to the nation, and done completely on one�s own) in a foreign land ruled not by order, a Recluce is, but by chaos. While the magic system that Modesitt presents is intriguing as it seeks to find the balance between order and chaos, many of the abilities of the magicians do not seem to truly relate to whether they have chosen order or chaos. (This is rectified at the end of the book but it takes 450 pages to get there.)

The main character (whose name is used so little that it is difficult for the reader even to remember) finds himself becoming a magician of the order stripe. Yet while his character does grow and change over time and pages, his abilities just seem to appear at need and are never fully discussed or explained.

The greatest loss to the book is Modesitt�s inability or unwillingness to bother to write fight scenes. The fights always take place in a hail of words like �Clank, Aieee, Whoosh, etc.� and other such sound words. In fact, it seems that Modesitt can�t go more then two pages without the use of such words. He constantly has the main character�s horse make the sound �Wheeeee� for a whinny. The entire lack of fight scene description slows down the book and makes its length go from reasonable to intolerable. The overuse of onomatopoeia is unnecessary and excessive throughout the book.

The work is lackluster at best, dull at worst. No reader should subject himself to such torture, for all that Robert Jordan (a Tor author himself, so he has a vested interest in seeing other Tor authors do well) recommends it. Stay away from The Magic of Recluce if you enjoy epic fantasy, and only read it if you don�t mind subjecting yourself to a slow moving plot, lackluster characterization, and boring writing.