I've notice this crazy trend with online reviews - raves with little explanation equal positive feedback from readers, and those that are critical receive quite low marks. Now tell me - those of us who are "well read" in the genre of science fiction and epic fantasy - can any of us really say that Modesitt is in the upper echelon of fantasy authors? Certainly not. Were there such a list though, men like Jordan, Martin, Tolkein, Rawn, and Jacques would be at the top. Their worlds are captivating, believable, with characters that DO rather than say, and you feel transported. Modesitt does have numerous redeeming qualities: a good magic system, interesting political commentary (moreso than most fantasy), and a penchant for making his heroes so mellow and modest. On the other hand, the meal scenes are intolerably long, slow, and frequent. There's a lot of inexplicable happenings - for example - why did Lerris and Krystal need to be bonded? In that area of the book - I reread the same 10 or 15 pages that SEEMED to be explaining, but I was baffled at to the apparent necessity. My theory - just so that we could have more lovey dialogue and a few situations where she could answer question he had thought and not spoken. At least there was more conflict than in previous books (the Magic Engineer was awful), and that perked my interest and saved me from many naps that otherwise would have been taken. I would caution anyone who has not read - this is SLOW stuff. There's nothing wrong with that if done right, but I can only safely say that the Recluce series gets it partially right.