I've been a big fan of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Recluce saga since The Magic of Recluce first came out in the early 90s. Haters might find it hard to believe, but as was the case with Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, it was the Darrell K. Sweet cover art that originally made me pick it up. And since then, sixteen installments later, every new Recluce novel has always managed to scratch my itch.
Once The Death of Chaos was completed, Modesitt maintained that no subsequent Recluce book would focus on future events set in that universe. Hence, every installment but The Magic of Recluce and The Death of Chaos take place at various period in the past of the Recluce timeline. This one chronicles the fate of those who survived the destruction of Cyador and further fleshes out the already rich historical past of this bestselling saga.
Here's the blurb:
Decades after the fall of Cyador, its survivors have re-established themselves in Cigoerne, a fertile country coveted by hostile neighbors in less hospitable lands. Young Lerial, the second son of Duke Kiedron, lives in the shadow of his older brother Lephi, the heir to their father's realm. Lerial's future seems preordained: He will one day command his brother's forces in defence of Cigoerne, serving at his older sibling's pleasure, and no more. But when Lerial is sent abroad to be fostered by Major Altyrn to learn the skills and wisdom he will need to fulfil his future duties, he begins a journey into a much larger world that brings out his true potential. Lerial has talents that few, as yet, suspect: He is one of those rare beings who can harness both Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape the world and define the magic that exists within it. And as war finally engulfs the fringes of Cigoerne, Lerial's growing mastery of Order and Chaos is tested to its limits, and his own.
The worldbuilding is always one of the most interesting aspects of these new Recluce books, for it allows readers to discover how people and events shaped history during their lifetime. In the last Recluce volume, Arms-Commander, Saryn's involvement in protecting the regency culminated in drastic changes throughout Lornth, shaping that country into what it would become in later years. And much like Nylan changed the face of Candar when he faced the might of Cyador, Saryn's coming down from Tower Black and the Roof of the World echoed down the centuries. The same can be said of young and inexperienced Lerial, who is forced to grow up before his time and whose actions as he attempts to save Cigoerne will change Hamor forever. I enjoyed how Modesitt filled in many of the blanks and elaborated on how the Empress brought the surviving Mirror Lancers, the Magi'i, and other survivors into the last fireship and fled Cyador to establish themselves in what would one eventually become Cigoerne.
As is usually his wont, the author continues to explore the relationship between Order and Chaos, one of the trademarks of this series. Being able to manipulate both Order and Chaos forces Lerial to test the limits of what he can do, often with unanticipated results. I'm already looking forward to the sequel, Heritage of Cyador, coming out later this fall, which will continue Lerial's tale.
The characterization is much better in Cyador's Heirs than it was in the previous Recluce novel. In Arms-Commander, I felt that Saryn, though she was a three-dimensional protagonist, was a bit too aloof to carry the weight of the entire story on her shoulders. On the other hand, Lerial, a teenager with an inquisitive mind, is a much more sympathetic character. We learn more about Order and Chaos as Lerial experiments, hoping that he can discover ways to help his father's forces overcome its enemies before it's too late. Majer Altyrn, even though he's not a POV protagonist, plays a large role in Lerial's character growth as the tale progresses and his knowledge of Cyador's past adds a few layers to the story.
Modesitt's novels are never fast-paced affairs and Cyador's Heirs is no exception. As was the case in most Recluce installments, the author needs time to establish the various plotlines. And then, you follow the main character as he or she must learn, experiment, and puzzle out ways to escape a number of predicaments before the finale. In that respect, Cyador's Heirs follows Modesitt's Recluce recipe like its predecessors and long-time fans end up with a satisfying read yet again. As the 17th volume in the Recluce saga, readers have come to know what to expect and Cyador's Heirs will undoubtedly please Modesitt fans, regardless of the fact that the rhythm can sometimes be an issue.
Feminism and the emancipation of women continue to be two important Recluce themes, although they are not as predominant as they were in Arms-Commander.
All in all, Cyador's Heirs is another solid effort by L. E. Modesitt, jr. Intelligent, thoughtful, and entertaining without any bells and whistles, this is adult fantasy by an author in perfect control of his craft and his universe.