Saga of Recluse
Title: Cyador’s Heirs
Author: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Publication Date: 20 May 2014
Let me preface this with telling you that this is the first book I’ve read by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I don’t know really anything about his other series or the books that are chronologically before this. There are 16 books in the Saga of Recluse series that come before this one.
However, L.E. Modesitt doesn’t write in a way that requires you to have an extensive knowledge of his works in order to read and enjoy this work. Perhaps one of the most impressive parts of this novel is that fact. Modesitt’s work is approachable to those who’ve never picked up his work before.
Cyador’s Heirs follows the young second son of the Duke of Cigoerne, Lerial. Lerial is constantly frustrated by his inability to best his older brother, his father’s lack of praise, and his own sense of inadequacy. At only fifteen years old, Lerial already feels like the world he was born to doesn’t really want him. When Lerial’s father sends him away to the countryside for reasons unkown to Lerial, he feels utterly abandoned. He works for months, knowing that the only way to get back to his home is to follow the mandates of the Majer, an old war veteran who is assigned to train him.
When Lerial does come home, he finds that the world he left is in even more dire streights than the one he left behind. Raiders have been attacking the northern outskirts, his father and brother have left on campaigns, and now, under his father’s orders, Lerial must go to Verdheln, a forest land that wants to be incorporated into his father’s lands.
Modesitt’s magic system works through the ability to control order and chaos, two forces that surround and create the world. Chaos mages are powerful in battle and both Lerial’s father and his brother Lephi are chaos mages. While Lerial can practice a bit with chaos, we’re shown early on that he’s more adept at order, typically considered to be a woman’s power and commonly used in healing. Lerial is taken under his aunt’s wing in his order use, but it’s made clear that his ability to use order needs to be hidden from his family who might otherwise think he’d be incapable of fulfilling his duties as a future army commander.
When Lerial is sent to Verdheln, his company, led by the Majer, is attacked. The neighboring country proceeds to send three batalions of trained forces and six chaos mages against Lerial and the Majer’s two squads of men and the untrained Verdheln citizens they were sent to train. What seems at first hopeless changes as Lerial realizes (largely from the experiences he gained in healing and under his aunt’s tutelage) that, if chaos and order really must be in balance, then perhaps there is more to be done.
There are a number of aspects I really enjoyed about the book. In particular, I really enjoyed the way that Modesitt build up the magic as something that can be practiced, where strength of magic is earned, and where weakness is built into one’s use. This made it so that no matter how powerful that anyone may be, they don’t have unlimited power and there doesn’t need to be any kryptonite type counterpoint to their power. It also is refreshing to see a magic system that actually physically affects the user.
Lerial as a character was very well done. He was understandable as a person. More importantly, he really develops. The Lerial we see at the end of the book has grown vastly from the young boy we met at the beginning. Not only are his experiences changing who he is in a tangible way as he experiences them, we are shown how quickly he has had to grow up, especially in contrast to his older brother, Lephi, who does not appear changed by the raids he faces up north.
The Majer is a solid choice for a leader and a teacher. He commands but doesn’t push and he encourages the type of critical thinking that builds new leaders. In part, we can see this in Lerial’s development. It’s his military tactics that help them to survive, not Lerial’s solely strength as an ordermage.
Modesitt must have a love for military strategy. A great deal of the book is exactly that, strategy and battle plans. It makes the war seem plausible and thought out, at least on Modesitt’s part. It also does a great deal to point out that magic is a secondary force that may not always be there to help. This is especially true with his magic system and we see it when Lerial has overextended himself and is unable to use his power.
Modesitt makes some interesting points about women and really contemplates the way women are relegated to home or domestic tasks. He shows powerful women throughout the book, women who are strong and women who are willing to fight. I was very impressed with how deliberate these choices were. He’s clear that initially many women were placed where they are because there aren’t enough men in Verdheln, but that they are not less than their male counterpoints. Then he proves it.
Overall, I was impressed. A big thanks to Tor Books who provided me with a galley copy.