I've been a fan of L. E. Modesitt, jr. for well over a decade. The Saga of Recluce remains one of my favorite series, and I also enjoyed the author's The Spellsong Cycle for its originality. Hence, I was eager to discover his latest series, The Corean Chronicles. I was hoping that this new trilogy would be accessible enough to allow new readers to discover the writer who is, in my humble opinion at least, fantasy's best-kept secret. Hopefully the secret's out!;-)
The premise of the story is nothing new: Millennia in the past, a magical disaster caused the downfall of a great civilization, thus ending a golden age. Corus is now a world of contending countries. Much has been forgotten about magic and the past, although remnants remain. And a number of elusive mystical creatures still exist, though most are considered legends. Pretty simple, you say? But Mr. Modesitt never leaves anything simple. His books comprise what I would call "intelligent" fantasy. Superb characterizations, worldbuilding of the first order, and a human touch that is second only to Robin Hobb's (who is without peers in this aspect) are hallmarks of a majority of his novels.
At the heart of Legacies lies Alucius, who is another one of Modesitt's strong three-dimensional characters. Another hero who's no hero -- just someone doing the best he can to stay alive and regain his freedom. The author always manages to pull this off, even after all these years. The supporting cast offers a number of interesting men and women. But this is Alucius' tale.
The pace is a bit slow, however. Especially at the beginning, as we watch the young protagonist grow up. There is a lot of military action, so fans of battle scenes should be satisfied. Even if the rhythm is slow, never is it sluggish. We gradually learn more about the world and its societies through Alucius' eyes, which keeps us turning those pages. That and a few glimpses of the ertswhile Duarchy which fell during the Cataclysm.
The narrative flows very well, and the dialogues are perfect. Honestly, I expected no less from this talented writer.
I truly liked the setting. Like R. Scott Bakker and Robin Hobb, Modesitt elected to forgo the habitual medieval European environment, thus creating something fresh. Magic plays a very minor role in a world that is close to industrialization. Firearms are the weapon of choice used by all.
The storylines are interesting, although Legacies seems to offer just a brief glimpse of what this series is meant to become. There is a lot more to Alucius than meets the eye; that is more than a little obvious. And it does appear that Modesitt has a lot more in store for the rest of the series.
The various societies found throughout the continent are certainly at odds on many levels. It will be more than a little interesting to see how it all plays out. I am always amazed by how Modesitt can create such a solid backdrop (as he did with the Recluce volumes) while maintaining the individual storylines and show how much they can affect the world around them. Those storylines always have a high level of credibility, because the characters actually pay a price for everything they achieve.
The pace could well be a factor for some readers not accustomed to the author's style. Otherwise, Legacies is a solid introduction to what could be a very good series. I remember saying the same about The Magic of Recluce. . .:-)
Fantasy fans looking for something different should add this one to their "books to read" pile.
The final verdict: 7,5/10