Second part of the trilogy (The Mongrel Mage, 2017) embedded in the Recluce fantasy series in which white chaos magic and black order magic coexist—often violently.
Beltur—a black mage of great power, able to blend both chaos and order, an ability not seen for hundreds of years—settles after the war in Elparta, where he polices the streets, learns healing, and assists talented smith Jorhan in crafting rare and beautiful objects from cupridium, an alloy that only a mage such as he can create; the items fetch high prices. He’s also hoping to marry the healer Jessyla. But Cohndar, head of the black council, views him as a threat; worse, the black mage Waensyn wants Jessyla for himself, and the pair conspire to destroy Beltur and Jorhan. Clearly a showdown looms, so Beltur prepares to flee, with no guarantee that conditions will be any more tolerable elsewhere. True, the characters may seem somewhat idealized—Beltur, for instance, invariably puts principles and ethics before profit and power, but often his actions are constrained by the backdrop’s inexorable logic, which says black mages and healers cannot lie (though they can dissemble) and can detect when others do. Few series, after all, are developed with such remarkable rigor and depth over 20 volumes and millions of words. Neither is Modesitt writing hagiography: Beltur will kill if his life, or those dear to him, is threatened. In crafting this convincing portrait of a genuinely humble man guided by his clear-cut, innate sense of right and wrong, Modesitt shows how apparent weaknesses can become sources of great strength. And while most of his stories explore complex philosophical issues without pedantry or prejudice, this trilogy is doing so with particular thoroughness.
Always a pleasure to abide in Modesitt’s universe, if only for a few hours or days.