Third entry in a miniseries (Outcasts of Order, 2018, etc.) within the Recluce fantasy universe; this is the 21st novel overall. The struggle between white chaos magic and black order magic continues.
Beltur, a black mage with the extraordinary ability to blend both chaos and order, and his wife, Jessyla, a healer, have been driven yet again from their home by jealous rivals, unscrupulous rulers, and prejudiced townsfolk. Accompanying them is another refugee family, the black mage Lhadoraak, his nonmagical wife, Tulya, and their young daughter, Taelya, a budding white wizard Beltur is tutoring. They arrive in Montgren at the invitation of the ruling duchess, and they hope to settle in the town of Haven. The duchess's endowment of gold and troopers seemed generous enough, but Haven turns out to be lawless and half abandoned, bossed by thugs and agents of Massyngal, the malign, despotic duke of neighboring Hydlen who has long nursed ambitions of annexing the place. To set the town to rights and defy the armies and chaos wizards of Hydlen, Beltur will need all his considerable problem-solving skills and hard-won expertise as a battle mage. This entry pivots away from the two previous books, which explored complex philosophical and social issues, in favor of more direct action. Beltur, then, must figure out a way to defeat an opponent whose troops and wizards follow orders no matter what. And series fans, understanding that the order in which the books are written bears no relation to the saga's internal chronology, will appreciate the supreme irony that the stronghold known to the future as Fairhaven was founded by black mages.
Readers who relish Modesitt's magical battles have waited through two volumes for them to materialize; they will find their reward here.