I first read The Magic of Recluce over 15 years ago, and I still have my original paperback copy. This year two special editions are being released by Tor and Subterranean Press. Rereading this story again, after having covered so much ground in epic fantasy, was both interesting and very comforting — comforting because it was nice to realize that a good story is still a good story even after all these years.
The Magic of Recluce chronicles the life of Lerris, a young man growing up on the island of Recluce. Recluce is a very normal, almost boring, place to grow up, and things are super orderly and clean. In my mind I imagine some of the extremely well-maintained villages that I have been through in Germany: so well organized, and it feels like there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
For Lerris, living in Recluce with his hyper-organized and structured parents is boring and has little meaning. His basic needs are met, he has been educated, but he is disaffected and this creates problems. In Recluce, citizenship is not a matter of mere birth, but also inclination to live by the established rules and ideology on which the society is built. The idea is that Order, in a wide variety of ways, prevents the advent of chaos and that chaos is inextricably tied to evil. For Lerris, this is not something that he is able to simply accept.
After spending time working for his uncle as an apprentice woodworker, Lerris is forced to leave Recluce because he still can’t seem to fit in. He is given training to prepare him for the outside world and then shipped to the continent of Candar, home of the Chaosmasters. Lerris is not the only one who doesn’t fit into Recluce, and his training along with a widely varied group of others who are being exiled set the stage for his foray into danger and his path to the future.
What’s remarkable about The Magic of Recluce is that it set the pattern for a very long series of books. I wonder if, at the start of this, L.E. Modesitt Jr. knew what he was starting or if it was something that grew as it went. The characters, roles, and plot formula that are presented in The Magic of Recluce are strongly emulated in most of the Saga of Recluce books that follow, making them somewhat predictable.
After perhaps my 20th read of The Magic of Recluce, I am again impressed by Modesitt and his ability to build a world. The stage he sets in this book will be used again and again by so many different characters over so many books that you can really appreciate the skill Modesitt has and the pains he has taken to create an entertaining formula. Lerris, by virtue of being the first main character, becomes something of a legend simply because his story, his choices, and his adventure is only the beginning of so much more. The Magic of Recluce is a great book, even after all these years.