Modesitt's first venture into fantasy (and hard-cover) is an interesting variation on some traditional fantasy themes, with a touch of his own science-fictional outlook. A boy's growth into manhood forms the center of the tale, and Modesitt's portrayal of that process is on the whole believable and insightful. The youthful Lerris, bored with the simple, orderly life of the island of Recluce, is forced by its rulers to undertake a temporary exile. (Young citizens who cannot accept the lifestyle of Recluce must spend time abroad to come to terms with themselves.) His journey carries him through his exile's training, on to the company of a mentoring gray wizard (who straddles the line between white Chaos and black Order), and finally into the path of the great chaos-master Antonin, who schemes to foster disorder and thus increase his own power. A slow start--Lerris's continual complaints of boredom grow tedious, and his dogged obtuseness in the face of evidence is frustrating--but the pace picks up once Lerris leaves Recluce, and the highly rationalized, scientific approach to magic is refreshing in a field full of pure mysticism. Modesitt also avoids the simple equation of order with good and chaos with evil--in Lerris's world, as in ours, a good balance is the best formula--and this more mature insight distinguishes his novel from the run-of-the-mill fantasies.