Book Review: The Saga of Recluce (Beltur’s Arc) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Title: The Mongrel Mage; Outcasts of Order; The Mage-Fire War

Author: L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: Oct. 31 2017; June 19 2018; Aug. 13 2019

Genres: Epic Fantasy


The Saga of Recluce is an interesting series, told in small book arcs and self-contained novels, jumping back and forth through the timeline, with each story adding more depth and color to the world. Books 19 through 21 form one such arc, centered around a mage by the name of Beltur. They are an interesting read, but not one of L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s better efforts.

While the books do have their moments, I found them to be largely dry in both the telling and the details, sluggish in their pacing, and repetitive in content. I’m okay with a leisurely told story, so long as it does move forward, developing the characters and advancing the plot. In The Mongrel Mage we spend the first 150 pages riding to a handful of identical villages, having the same conversations with the same stock characters, and watching as Beltur skulks around similar-looking walls, listening to similarly banal snippets of conversation. In Outcasts of Order we spend 200 pages healing, smithing, marching, talking, and walking through snow. In The Mage-Fire War we seem to keep reading in circles, with characters doing something in one chapter, talking about it in the next, and thinking about in the one that follows.

It doesn’t help that Beltur is such a bland protagonist. He does grow on you, but he’s too good, too nice, too even to be interesting. It’s rare that we see any emotion from him other than casual concern for the social injustices of the world or mildly frustrated romantic longing for Jessyla. Okay, so that last one is a bit unfair as his courtship of Jessyla is one of the high points of the trilogy (alongside Taelya), and the books only really come alive when either of them step onto the page.

Where the books do excel, and this is something Modesitt always does well, is in the more intellectual aspects. There are puzzles and mysteries galore, medical and magical experimentation that further builds upon what we know of Order, Chaos, and the shades of grey in between. There is a solid story behind all that, an intellectual journey that establishes Beltur’s place in history, and were the three books condensed into one, with all the repetition removed, there’s a strong novel to be found.

Everything does end on a high note in The Mage-Fire War (which was, otherwise, the weakest of the three books), with the standoff in Haven, the establishment of Fairhaven, and the development of Taelya – who, despite my reservations about this arc, I’m eager to catch up with in Fairhaven Rising next year.

Rating: ā™€ ā™€ ā™€

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me copies in exchange for an honest review.

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