The 18th volume in Modesitt’s seemingly immortal Recluce fantasy series, following Cyador’s Heirs (2014, etc.).
After years of border skirmishing and petty provocations, Lerial, the second son of Duke Kiedron of Cigoerne, uses his mastery of order and chaos, the competing natural forces that shape his world and define the magic that exists within it, to annihilate an Afritan military force penetrating the border. Five years later, Lerial’s wise mentor, Majer Altyrn, dies (without putting in an appearance). Kiedron suspects an impending invasion of Afrit by its belligerent neighbor, Heldya. Without Afrit to protect its northern flank, Cigoerne, smaller, poorer and less populous, could not long withstand Heldya’s vast armies. So Kiedron hastily arranges with Duke Atroyan to send Lerial and three companies of Mirror Lancers, Cigoerne’s crack troops, to Afrit’s aid. Not only must Lerial win over skeptical or hostile Afritans and deploy his magic, his wits and his martial skills to thwart the invaders, but somehow he must expose and neutralize the subtle treacheries of Afrit’s merchant class, as well as navigate dangerous political and familial waters. The general ambience is early modern Europe—think 16th-17th century, with magic replacing firearms. Inevitably, the entries possess a certain generic similarity as well as a resemblance to other Modesitt works such as the Imager series. Here, then, we see a young man with magical, military and diplomatic skills faced with ordeals that will challenge his ability to make good decisions under life-threatening circumstances. Fortunately, the author’s not only a superb craftsman and character-builder, but a consummate storyteller, so that each good-against-evil clash appears fresh and engrossing.
Top-notch Modesitt, even if you’re not a series regular.