Category Archives: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Review: Princeps by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

 

4 out of 5

Princeps is the fifth book in the Imager series and the second involving Quaeryt. Apparently 3 more books are expected in the series. This is not a standalone novel and does require reading Scholar first. Despite starting directly after the events in Scholar and finishing with obvious lead ins to the next novel Modesitt doesn’t leave off with a cliff hanger. There is a definite feeling of beginning, middle and end to the story. Princeps follows Modesitt’s usual path of having a strong, talented main character with serious doubts about his abilities being placed in situations where he gets into trouble for being a moral person. Again there is a situation where the main character is forced to use means outside of the law to right certain situations. This can be a little disturbing in that the main character regrets having to use such means but it doesn’t seem to affect his character. On several occasions he kills people who he is unable to prove are causing harm to others but it is rationalized as being the only way to solve the problem. In this series Modesitt also follows a theme of religious doubt. Quaeryt doubts the existence of the Nameless while still following the precepts of the religion, living modestly and caring for others. At the same time he has become quite adept at sharing his insights into the Nameless through the various sermons he ends up giving. His attempts to fix the problems of a corrupt city that has had a natural disaster create more problems for himself and his new wife and at times the only thing that keeps him alive is his marriage to the warlords sister. Throughout it all Quaeryt attempts to bring respect for the scholars and imagers. One thing that is difficult to swallow is that more people don’t put two and two together and realize he is an imager. Those close to him know and those that work with him suspect but considering the imaging work he does it is surprising no one else seems to get it. I have found that the Imager series is a little more complex in it’s view of life than the Recluse series. I look forward to the next book in the series.


Review: The Magical Engineer by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

 

5 out of 5

 

The Magical Engineer is the third book in the Saga of Recluse. It has been 300 years since Creslin founded Recluse and things are still not easy for the black mages. One problem is many of their offspring have difficulty following a pure black way of life. A program has been set up that trains these young people in survival skills and sends them to other parts of the world for at least a year. Dorrin’s father is a member of the ruling council and extremely set  in his ways. He cannot understand his son’s obsession with machinery. Many on Recluse consider all but the most basic machinery to be chaos driven but Dorrin believes differently. So he is trained and sent with two others to Candor with the direction to not return until he understands the Balance. Once again Modesitt has given us a character who is driven and doesn’t fully understand just how powerful he is. Throughout the novel Dorrin keeps telling people that he just wants to make his engine and doesn’t understand why this brings him  to the attention of the Chaos masters. His basic honesty and hard work gain him friends and supporters but to him such things are the way everyone should behave so he doesn’t see how this makes him different. The crafts that take the spotlight in this novel are smithing and healing. This is one of my favorite Recluse novels because Dorrin is almost oblivious to the attention the Whites are giving him. They are working hard to get rid of a man who doesn’t even know they are after him until much later in the story. It is not until near the end that Dorrin actually has to confront them. Plus the machines he builds to fight them are not aimed at anyone personally, they are just attempts at helping his friends win the war. Dorrin is a more complex character than those that come before him and the combination of smithing and healing leads to a fuller story line.


Review: Arms-Commander by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

4 out of 5

This is one of my favorite novels in the Saga of Recluce series. It is also the newest. Unlike the other novels it is told from the point of view of a woman. Saryn is Arms-Commander of Westwind and one of the original Angels. The story takes place after Nylan has left Westwind. Saryn is also a black mage whose powers are just now becoming stronger. She is charged with helping the regents of Lornth hold on to their land. In doing so she finds she must prove her fighting abilities over and over again. Despite being a woman she still closely follows Modesitt’s hero pattern. She is modest, is just learning her powers and works hard at perfecting them. She, as many of his protagonists find, doesn’t understand the constant need for force. As Arms-Commander, fighting is her craft and other crafts are not focused on in the novel. This is a bit of a departure for Modesitt and it works. The men in the novel range from accepting to hostile but one stands out as he attempts to gain her trust and love.

 


Review: Fall of Angels by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

 

4 out of 5

 

This novel comes much later in the Saga of Recluce series. I recently re-read it for a paper which is why I am reviewing it out of order. While The Towers of Sunset tells the story of how Recluce was created, this novel tells the story of how Westwind was created. A mixture of Science Fiction and Fantasy, it answers many questions about the Legend and the problems between east and west, men and women. when the Angels crash land on the highest mountain peak in Candar they find a world where women are property. This is in serious conflict with their own society in which women are equals. The Captain, Ryba, quickly understands that the group, mainly women marines, will need to prove their fighting abilities and use force to survive in such a place. Their existence alone causes attacks by the male rulers who can not be seen as weak by letting women rule themselves. The engineer Nylan is one of only three men to survive the crash and the story is told from his point of view. Once again Modesitt has stuck with his formula for a hero. Nylan is a very powerful black mage but doesn’t see this for himself. He is not only modest about his magical skills but also about his crafting skills. He basically designs and builds Westwind. As is common in Modesitt novels, crafting plays an important part. Stonework is the skill that is focused on. This story is an interesting look at how outside forces change societies as the Angels are not the only ones to have landed here.


Review: The Towers of the Sunset by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

4 out of 5

Second in the Saga of Recluse series, this book takes the reader back to the beginning of Recluse as a home for the black wizards. The theme of balance is seen through the eyes of Creslin, son of the Marshal of Westwind. This theme is divided into two parts, the balance of power between men and women and the balance between order and chaos. Creslin, as man, has no place in Westwind where women rule. He is consorted to the sister of the Tyrant of Sarronnyn, another country that follows the Legend and has only women in power. A strong if untaught black mage he rebels at the thought of becoming just a sex object and chooses to run away. The idea of which sex makes the better rulers is a common one for Modesitt and in this novel we see the best and worst of both. The question becomes unimportant for Recluce as the abilities of both men and women are needed in order for the island nation to survive. The balance of order and chaos is seen in Creslin’s attempts to use order for destruction, attempts that have a profound affect on him. Once again we are given a protagonist placed in extremely difficult situations who using their innate talents manages to survive the un-survivable.  We also find out why crafting is so important to Recluce but this novel doesn’t go into as much detail about specific crafts. Once again Modesitt has managed to take his formula in a new direction.


Review: Scholar by L.E. Modesitt

4 out of 5
This is the fourth in the Imager series but it is not a continuation of the story from the first 3 books. This book takes us into the past and shows us a world before Imagers were given a role in society. This jumping back to the past is a common idea in Modesitt’s various series. The main character, Quaeryt, is a scholar and advisor to the King. Like so many of Modesitt’s other main characters he is a modest man from a common background who uses his many skills to fix what he sees as wrong. This earns him the respect and fear of some and the hate of others. As always this main character has high moral standards and yet sees himself as just a common man doing his best. He knows he is an imager and he knows that is a rare skill but outside of self-defense and getting a small amount of loose change he doesn’t use his abilities to further his own aims but the aims of the King. As always the writing is superb. Modesitt takes us into a full and interesting world filled with intrigue and action. He is also able to do something more authors should be doing, tell a story in one book while still leaving interesting ideas for future books. It makes for a satisfying reading experience. Despite his characters tending to fall into the same mold, Modesitt is able to create enough variety in the settings and plot to keep the story interesting. Also common to Modesitt’s work is the feeling that the climax sneaks up on the reader. His main characters seem to make connections that are not obvious to the reader until the end. They ask questions that appear to be unanswered right up to the climax when it becomes obvious the character figured it out several chapters earlier and didn’t tell us. This particular book didn’t have Modesitt’s usual focus on some type of crafting skill, focusing on Quaeryt’s writing and organizing skills instead. I would suggest reading the first three Imager novels before reading this just too get an idea of the ideas behind Imager. As always Modesitt’s books are best read in order of publication.


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

4 out of 5

The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the first in his Saga of Recluce series. Recently, I read two books from later in the series for a class paper and decided to re-read the series. Modesitt sticks to a simple formula with all of his books. His hero’s are very modest, very hardworking, and have latent powers that they work on discovering throughout the story. This formula might cause a feeling of repetitiveness if not for the fact that it Modesitt is a skilled writer who creates varied individuals despite their similarities.  Another note on the series as a whole, the stories are not told in chronological order. A quick Google search will bring up the chronological order for you but I recommend reading them in order of publication as there is a method to Mr. Modesitt’s madness.

On to The Magic of Recluce, which tells the story of Lerris, a young man from the island nation of Recluce. Lerris finds Recluce boring. No one will answer his questions on the theory of order. Order and Chaos are the two magical systems in this world. Order is seen as black and represents good while Chaos is seen as white and represents evil. Lerris’s adventures take him far from home and he gains the knowledge he was looking for while combating Chaos. As with all of Modesitt’s fantasy works the story focus’s on a specific craft, in this case woodworking. Modesitt doesn’t give his character or the reader easy answers to everything. His matter of fact story telling allows the climax creep up on the reader. I prefer authors who don’t feel the need to explain every little detail to the reader, leaving us to detective out the connections and Modesitt does this well. By the end of the book everything makes sense while leaving the feeling there is more of this story still to come.  A personal peeve of mine is authors who continue the same story over unending novels. That is not the case with Modesitt. Novels may tell a later or earlier story but every novel is self contained and gives the reader an ending to that particular story. The magic system, while appearing simple, is complex. Good and evil, black and white are intertwined as seen in the grey mage and in Lerris dealings with both.

I definitely recommend this novel and this series. They have given me hours of reading enjoyment.