A ``prequel'' to The Magic of Recluse (1991), this sometimes engaging, more often frustrating novel details the founding of the island-kingdom of Recluce. Young Creslin, kept ignorant of his powers in both magic and swordcraft, grows unsatisfied with his lot as a male in matriarchal Westwind. Unwillingly betrothed to the ``sub-Tyrant'' of a neighboring nation, Creslin flees eastward, where he is captured by the White (Chaos) magicians, aided by the Black (Order) wizards, and finally forced by circumstance to wed his less-than-thrilled betrothed Megaera, who has been manipulated by magic into the marriage herself. Together (though constantly bickering), they undertake the regency of the desolate isle of Recluce, hoping to turn it into a prosperous haven free of the White wizards. But the wizards have other plans--and Creslin must master his own powers, make the desert Recluce bloom, and defeat the Chaos magicians if he hopes to survive. Unsatisfying--despite some interesting inversions of typical fantasy elements. The first half moves very slowly, as Creslin wanders purposelessly toward Fairhaven, the lair of the White wizards, and the second section is plagued by Megaera's shrewish and cruel treatment of Creslin. But the worst flaw is Modesitt's choice of the present tense throughout the book--very distracting and deadly to any building sense of drama. Disappointing.