A collection of 17 new and three reprinted stories plus an essay, weaving among the prolific Modesitt’s impressive 18-book (and counting) fantasy Saga of Recluse (Heritage of Cyador, 2014, etc.).
Briefly, the series describes the fate of a spaceship from an advanced starfaring civilization suddenly hurled into another universe where science and engineering work only intermittently; instead, the structure of spacetime gives rise to highly specific types of magic, to the bewilderment of the humans who now must make new lives there. Helpfully, the stories present in the internal chronological order in which they occur in the world of Recluce. Since neither a timeline nor maps are included, however, familiarity with both is assumed. First, and most significant (although fiction purists may disagree), the essay describes how Modesitt developed the ideas and logic behind the opposing (black) order and (white) chaos magics that characterize the series, how the magics gave rise to the planet’s distinctive social systems, how the social systems conflict and combine, and why the series’ most powerful characters arise almost organically out of this complex and satisfying backdrop. Laconic introductions to each story inform us that Modesitt wrote them to fill gaps in the saga, in response to readers’ questions or pleas, to view landmark events from unfamiliar perspectives, or sometimes “just because.” A sampler: in “Heritage,” clairvoyant Empress Mairena must persuade skeptical soldiers and citizens to flee the coming destruction of Cyador; “Black Ordermage” details how the mage Cassius came to Recluce (and no, he wasn’t born there); in “The Forest Girl” we encounter the future emperor Alyiakal and his dealings with the Accursed Forest; and in “Worth,” Wrynn, a fearsome and multitalented warrior, seeks the serenity that eludes her.
Don’t expect great significance everywhere—some of the pieces are no more than vignettes—but Modesitt is excellent company, and the more familiar you are with the series, the richer these stories will seem.