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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on April 5, 2002
The title of this review is the sound allegedly made by Gairloch, the pony; it is the most frequent "word" used in the book. Along with it come the assorted thumps, bangs, clangs, and wooshes alluded to by other reviewers. I assume that someone persuaded Mr. Modesitt to stop writing these silly sound effects in later works. I can't imagine why he used them in the first place.
Mr. Modesitt faced the inevitable problem of handling magic by inventing a very complicated order/chaos system. It is so complicated that no one can fully understand it, including Mr. Modesitt, who in this his first book is clearly making it up as he goes along. It befuddles the reader.
Lerris is an unsatisfactory hero. He is very stupid for the first part of the book; then, as he realizes he is a master at casting this confusing "order magic" (which he actually understands as little as do the reader and the author) he seems smarter but is still annoyingly self-critical and self-deprecating. I am all for decent humility but I do not especially want the 'hero' to keep calling himself an idiot, as Lerris does.
There is much too much space wasted on the intricacies of woodworking, although if Mr. Modesitt is not himself a woodworker he deserves high marks for all the perceptive observations he makes about that craft. But we do not read heroic fantasy to study woodworkers, now, do we, Mr. Modesitt?
Mr. Modesitt rather cheats when it comes to describing single combats; we are rarely told what actually happened. Here, in its entirety, is a fight between two great swordmasters (pp. 120-121):
"The man's blade flashed, impossibly quickly. Yet, in scarcely moving her own blade, Isolde somehow deflected the attack.
Blades caressed, never meeting directly, edges sliding against each other.
The Duke's champion lay face down on the pier, separated from sword and life."
He might just as well have written, "They fought and she killed him."
I cannot rate this book very highly, although it did prove involving enough so that I read it all, which is more than I can say for Jordan and McKiernan. But I won't be reading the rest of the series, I'm afraid.
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on June 5, 2002
I was browsing at [a local store] looking for a good fantasy, which I have had trouble finding since finishing WoT and Tolkien. I was looking for a large series to feed my hunger for an in depth world and a large set of adventures when I stumbled upon L. E. Modesitt Jr's first book in the Saga of Recluse series.
It started out slow, describing the young main character's plain life in Recluse. From that point on the story only gets better. I immediately fell in love with the main character's lazy attitude, and his irritation at things he did not comprehend. His character is very real, and it is easy to relate to his thoughts and feelings.
Keep reading this story and you will find out that there is a whole world of complex cultures and kingdoms, and all is balanced on an intriquite system of order and chaos that questions the morals of society. Now to the part that horrified me.

After dedicating a day or two to this great read, I discovered something horrible from a review about the second book. The novels continuously go back in time, which is a great idea, but I was so ready to get involved with the same character who had become a reality throughout the story, and going back in time involves new characters. Other than that the fantasy was great, the world was huge, and the characters and cultures were complex and detailed.
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on January 3, 2002
After reading every one of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books it's difficult to find a decent book to read. I was recommended this series. They said that it was a [copy] of Jordan, yet it was good. Though I don't see the resemblance between The Magic of Recluse and The Wheel of Time, this first book is still good. The slow start put me off a bit, but it was enjoyable enough to keep me going. It did not take too long for me to become engrossed in Lerris' "apprenticeship" with the gray wizard Justin. The rest of the story was easily read.
There are a few times where I detected L. E. Modesitt Jr. poking fun at not just the fantasy genre but also the way most authors write. For example, many writers will have their characters sit around a campfire and ridiculously explain the entire world for no good reason. L. E. Modesitt Jr. does the opposite, no one tells Lerris anything at all. Then Justin scolds him for not knowing anything. Obviously (to me) L. E. Modesitt Jr. has some opinions about what makes a book believable. But his methods aren't much better, except for the fact that he denounces the bad methods employed by many authors. Still, I appreciate the effort. I hope he gets better at finding new ways to solve the old problems, rather than giving up and just accepting the solutions created by past writers.
I cannot give it 5 stars for it's technical errors, of which there are many, but inconsequential. I did not buy the clever magic system completely. Some of it is flawed. For example, contrary to most magic systems, white is evil and black is good. I find this intriguing (again he is being different) but it's not quite right. L. E. Modesitt Jr. explains his color system by saying that light is chaos (it isn't---light is extremely ordered) so it must be evil. Yet he doesn't realize that white clothing reflects light so by his logical system, chaos masters should wear black, not white. Still, this is a minor error, for which I can forgive (with a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief). But it does, with the help of L. E. Modesitt Jr.'s ridiculous sound effects, drop off a star. (If you want well placed and subtle written sound effects, read Drowned Hopes, by Donald E. Westlake.)
So, The Magic of Recluse had a slow but enjoyable start and introduced some new intriguing ideas. Then it got more enjoyable as the protagonist gained more and more knowledge. It's common human error flaws are forgivable, but the magic system needs work. I understand he does fine tune the magic system in his later books. I'll have to judge them when I get to them. But for the meantime, The Magic of Recluse gets [four stars] from me.
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on January 8, 2003
It was the cover art that first caught my eye, it was beautiful. This book is very descriptive but at the same time it can also be very boring. This is not the stories fault no, not by any means the story itself is in depth and descriptive. I loved the story when I finally found the time to finish it.
My main complant is about the main character "Lerris" I found him to be an annoying dork. This again is not his fault I probably would be as boring as Lerris had I grown up in a land as self righteous as Recluce.
It seemed to me like whenever the story threatened to pick up speed or become interesting such as the conflict between the White wizards and the Grey Wizards Lerris would start whining about how bored he was with everything. We have to endure 300 pages of him listening impatiently to his teachers. I mean if he can do it better then everyone else why doesn't he shut up and movie the story along.
My Impression-The story is good and other books in this serise are indeed excellent(I started I reverse order) but if I have to deal with "Lerris" for another book I think I will skip "towers at sunset". The Villians were fleshed out and all charecter were taken as far as they could go. It was refeshing to see a practical approach to magic
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on January 16, 2000
This book was alright, although not the wonderful journey that some of these reviews make it out to be. I thought that Modesitt's new, more scientific approach to magic was interesting, as were the small mysteries about the Dangergeld and what it meant, and why people went there. I only give it three stars because, first of all, I found that there were some inconsistancies throughout the book. The plot kind of jumped around in places. Like when Lerris realizes that Justern is his uncle. Where did that come from? And how Tamra(and everyone else) seemed to know that Lerris's father was a master, and yet he didnt have any clue about anything having to do with tht Masters at all. How did the rest know so much, even to the point of names and identities, when the masters were supposed to be so mysterious and secretive. I also didnt like the fact that characters whom i though would be a major part of the story, such as Tamra, disappeared after 5 chapters or so, and actually had no real effect on the story. When did Lerris figure out what happened to her? Did I miss that part? I did however, like the way Lerris was portrayed. He was an honest character, in the sense that he seemd real, and was easy to realate to. His thoughts and feelings, whether about himself or others, seemed genuine, not just one demensional superman macho type heroes frequently portrayed in fantasy books. All in all, this is a good book, and I would recommend it to someone who likes fantasy, and is looking for a new start, but if you're used to reading series like Goodkind, Jordan, Tolkien or other high-powered, bestselling saga's be prepared for a let down. This would be good for an in-between book,(while we all suffer and wait for the next WoT and Sword of Truth enstallments)but not if you're expecting a completely enthralling, all encompassing, think about it 24/7 type of series.
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on March 4, 2001
This is one of the worst books I have read in a long time! The story line, scenery and characters were all boring. The story line was also totally unbelievable and needed a lot more explanation. Why wasn't the main character shocked to discover that he posessed magical powers and was the son of one of the most powerful men on Recluce, when he didn't even believe in the existance of magic until he was sent to be a Dangergeld? Why weren't we, the readers, priveleged to discover what it means to be a black staffer? There were too many questions left unanswered while sound effects and the main character's boredom would take up page after page. The ending was a little better, but totally unbelievable. Come on, get real...he did all of that with about a month's worth of training from his uncle (he amazingly figured out Julien was his uncle without us ever being privy to HOW he figured it out) and a little book that he barely understood. I spent the whole time reading this book, wondering when George R.R. Martin will release his new book...I just hope the next book I pick up to bide my time will be better than this one!
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on July 2, 2002
Modesitt's main strength in this novel is the ability to closely relate the reader to the main character, Lerris, through good use of narrative, dialogue, and first person perspective. Having said that, I enjoyed the simplicity of the story, and it was nice to get away from the usual "forces of evil out to destroy the world" treatment that is so prevalent in fantasy these days.
Unfortunately, Modesitt's weaknesses here bear the mark of the amateur writer, and, frankly, I'm amazed that this story was published in it's current form.
The author periodically jaunts into interludes with other characters, switching from first person, past tense, to third person in present tense. The change in tense annoys me, and I feel that it disrupts the flow of the story. I don't believe that narrative written in present tense has a place in fiction, and I found myself skimming or even skipping sections of the interludes. Even had the interludes been written in past tense, I don't think that the additional narrative contributed enough to the novel to make the distraction from the main story worthwhile.
Modesitt's second, and much more glaring, stylistic no-no was the constant use of sound effects. Sound effects are fine as part of dialogue; people actually speak that way, but the use of sound effects in narrative is the mark of poor writing, laziness, or both. Well-written metaphors and adjectives can convey the same meaning and provide a clearer image of what's happening without annoying the reader. To the author's credit, the volume of sound effects decreases noticeably as the text progresses.
Last and least, Modesitt's descriptions in the first half of the book tend to be sterile, especially the descriptions of places and rooms. The descriptions may provide technical details to the reader (length and width of the room, number of doors, etc), but they fail to convey much feeling about the setting. These sections, too, I frequently skimmed, as I sought where the dialogue picked up again.
Just as with the sound effects, however, as the story progressed, the descriptions improved substantially, and by midway through the novel, the author began showing a more polished understanding of how to describe the setting.
Overall, Modesitt's easy grasp of dialogue and clear understanding of Lerris's character made the story work, but the author's stylistic choices were questionable at best. "The Magic of Recluce" could have benefitted from another rewrite or two.
The novel still interested me enough that I picked up "The Towers Of The Sunset". "The Towers," however, appears to be written entirely in third person, present tense, and seventy pages into the story, I'm having a very hard time relating to any of the characters. I keep reading, wondering, "Where's Lerris, and when is Modesitt going to switch tenses again?" For the first time in years, I'm tempted to put down a book.
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on May 4, 2000
This book had an interesting plot and storyline. Modesitt's unique study of the relationships between good/evil and order/chaos set the book apart from other fantasy books.
One of the major problems I had with this book was that some stuff didn't make sense. I mean, characters kept talking about "blackstaffs", but it was never explained what they were. Also, how did Lerris, the main character, figure out some of the feats of magic that he performed without anyone teaching him? I can't possibly be intuitive based on how the magic system was being explained. Lerris also seemed arrive at conclusions that, to me, seemed impossible to reach. For example, all of a sudden he "realizes" that Justen is his uncle. WHAT! How in the heck did he come to that conclusion! There were no hints or anything. He just thought to himself, "Oh yeah, he must be my uncle." Whatever. Finally, Modesitt's system of measurement was kind of strange. He used cubits as the main measurement of length. The way he defined this was by saying that a tall person is about 2 cubits tall. However, later on, Lerris is looking at a wall that he thinks is insignificant, but is 40 cubits high. Okay, if a tall person is, say, six feet tall and that's 2 cubits, then a 40 cubit wall would be 120 feet tall. How is that insignificant?
Anyway, aside from these inconsistencies, this is still an entertaining book. Lerris is a very down to earth character who is passionate and caring. His struggle on his "dangergeld" is a rousing tale of good versus evil, even if the good guy doesn't always know what he's doing :) Not on par with Goodkind or Jordan, but a rousing tale nontheless.
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on July 23, 2000
This is good stuff, there is no great epic journey with twenty charecters to follow (not that there's anything wrong w/ that), or killer dragons, or shadowspawn. Just a believable concept of a world run on chaos and order. The main charecter, Lerris, after doodling around appernticing with his uncle in woodworking, has to go on a dangergeld quest thing. Basicly he, along with i believe five or six others, are trained in various physical exersises & weapons, and educated about the world outside of Recluse.
Now, Recluse is a smallish continent, run the Brotherhood, a group of Order-Masters. Since Recluse is basicly this little haven, and according to the choas/order theory, the order in recluse must be paralled by chaos elsewhere (correct me if i'm wrong). So after all his training and stuff, Lerris and the other Dangergelders are dropped off on Candar, a nearby continent, in this city called Freetown. From there, Lerris, essentialy, blunders around a few small towns, meets a Grey (nutural, you could say) wizard and learns some stuff. They part ways too soon and Lerris is left wondering.
From there he crosses a mountain rage, pays to much for an Inn, and basicly freezes himself half to death. Soon, he comes to this city, and takes on a journey-man position at a lowly, not respected at all, woodwork shop, and pretty much does miracles. After hanging around there, he gets into some bad trouble with a very powerfull White (chaos) wizard. He goes on to save the day and get the girl, all told very believably.
A unique, touching fantasy, destined to become a classic. Though no where near as hard on the brain as the Wheel of Time, it is still a very enjoyable, well crafted fantasy. Highly Recomended.
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on May 7, 1999
The Magic of Recluce is the start of a classic epic and an epic The Saga of Recluce is. This being my 3rd book (I've read Fall of Angels and The Chaos Balance) I cannot wait to pickup Towers of the Sunset (book 2). This book is not fast paced and does not take you on an emotional roller coaster. That is not what these books are about (at least the 3 I've read anyway). These books are still special. They are told from the perspective of the main character, in this case Lerris, who we come to know very well. We travel with him, we eat with him, we fight with him, we feel with him, we fear with him, we learn with him and we grow up with him. This allows for the slow pacing in some places as the author allows us to mature with Lerris, to introspect, to experience things on a day to day basis in the world of Recluce. We learn about Recluce, we meet the people who inhabit it, we smell the air, we sleep in it's inns. Lerris's adventure becomes our adventure, became my adventure and I did not want to put the book down. Thats why these books are special, because you become the character, you live the adventure. The adventure is alot more than hacking and slashing. It is a sojourn of sorts. The character has choices to make. Simply put those choices are between good and evil, order and chaos. In the best tradition of Luke Skywalker / Darth Vader, our hero must decide, we must decide.
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