The Mongrel Mage

Modesitt fans are getting spoiled in 2017 with two different Recluce books! I wasn't even aware that the 19th installment in the saga was on its way. So with Recluce Tales published earlier this year and The Mongrel Mage being released this fall, this is an unexpected surprise.

Even better, this is the beginning of a brand new story arc. If the past is any indication, this one will likely be another two-volume sequence. Time will tell, but I have a feeling that fans of the author will be happy no matter how many novels comprise Beltur's tale.

Here's the blurb:

The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world with world-building detail and an ingenious and disciplined magic system. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to his longest and bestselling fantasy series with volume nineteen, The Mongrel Mage, which marks the beginning of a new story arc.

In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic—the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics.

On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.

However, when the white mage he fled attempts to invade his new home, Beltur must hope his new found power will be enough to save them all.

Personally, I feel that the worldbuilding is always one of the most fascinating facets of these new Recluce books. Indeed, it allows readers to discover how people and events shaped history during their lifetime. In the last few novels, Modesitt first showed how Saryn's involvement in protecting the regency culminated in drastic changes throughout Lornth, shaping that country into what it would become in later years. Saryn's coming down from Tower Black and the Roof of the World echoed down the centuries the same way the deeds of an inexperienced Lerial, a young man forced to grow up before his time, would change Hamor forever with his attempts to save Cigoerne from its many enemies. It's too early to tell how Beltur's story will fit in the greater scheme of things, yet I'm looking forward to discovering how he'll leave his own indelible mark upon the Recluce timeline.

As is usually his wont, Modesitt continues to explore the relationship between Order and Chaos, one of the trademarks of this series. In Cyador's Heirs and Heritage of Cyador, being able to manipulate both Order and Chaos forced Lerial to test the limits of what he could do, often with unanticipated results. The same goes for Beltur. Although trained as a White Mage, he soon finds out that he's more Black than he ever thought possible. This strange dichotomy doesn't sit well with some of his newfound allies, who sometimes refer to him as a mongrel mage.

The characterization would probably have benefited from more POV characters. In the last Recluce story arc, Lerial, a teenager with an inquisitive mind, was a sympathetic protagonist which was easy to root for. Although his heart is always in the right place, Beltur can be dense at times and he's not as endearing as Lerial turned out to be. Still, rediscovering how to forge cupridium and his experiments to use Order to help defeat the Gallosian forces bent on conquering his new home make Beltur an interesting young man to follow. The supporting cast is particularly engaging, chief among them the gay couple comprised of the Black Mages Athaal and Meldryn, the Healers Margrena and her daughter Jessyla, as well as Captain Laugreth and Squad Leader Gaermyn.

Not surprisingly, the pace was an issue at times. Modesitt's novels are never fast-paced affairs and The Mongrel Mage is no exception to that rule. As was the case in every Recluce installment, the author needs time to establish the various plotlines. Once done, you then follow the main character as he or she must learn, experiment, and puzzle out ways to escape a number of predicaments before the endgame can take place. In that respect, The Mongrel Mage follows the classic Recluce recipe and long-time fans end up with another compelling read. And yet, even though it's the first chapter in a much bigger tale, it felt as though this novel was not as self-contained at other similar Recluce offerings. There is a lot more to Beltur's story, that goes without saying. But I feel that this one didn't stand as well on its own and wasn't as satisfying as other first installments in previous Recluce story arcs.

When all is said and done, The Mongrel Mage turned out to be another solid effort by L. E. Modesitt, jr. Smart, thoughtful, and entertaining without any of the bells and whistles so prevalent in epic fantasy these days, this is adult fantasy by an author who remains in perfect control of his craft and his universe. Looking forward to what comes next!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

3 commentaires:

Cliff Samuels said...

The second half of this book is titled, Outcasts of Order. It is slated to come out next June.

machinery said...

this is again set in the far past before the end of the 5th book of the series ?
or has the time barrier been blown finally into the future ?

Patrick said...

It's set in the past.