Brad's Reviews > The Magic of Recluce

The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
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's review
Nov 03, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, sci-fantasy, exceeded-my-expectations, unforgivable-cover-art
Recommended to Brad by: Jon Moss
Read from October 22 to November 03, 2010 , read count: 1

There are three reasons why I love The Magic of Recluce: 1) it's not like the Star Wars movies in one crucial way; 2) it is built around training rather than adventure; 3) woodworking.

1) Not Star Wars: There is a line in Empire Strikes Back where Yoda says, "A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack." There is no equivocation in that. It is NEVER for attack. Pretty simple, I would think. Yet the movies are packed with our Jedis on the offensive, including Yoda in the prequels. I wanted to believe Yoda. I wanted it to be true. I wanted Luke's confrontation with Darth Vader in Bespin to be as much a mistake because of its offensive nature as it was a mistake of his youth.

I've debated and discussed this with many over the years, and one of the most frustrating excuses for the movies is that "there is no other way." I've always argued that there is another way, and that the failure to embrace that other way is a terrible failure of the films and its creator (I am fine with using the violence of attack as an answer, so long as the great guru of our hero doesn't say that it is NEVER for attack). But my argument has been written off as mere theory because while I have argued that there is another way all I had was my assertion that there was. Now I have The Magic of Recluce. Where Lucas fails, Modesitt Jr. succeeds. Where Luke Skywalker fails, Lerris succeeds. Where the flawed use of force fails, order succeeds by letting chaos destroy itself.

Lerris doesn't need big weapons. He actually breaks his own staff at one point and uses a shield as his "weapon." Lerris spends the novel disarming people, avoiding people, protecting people and attempting to bring order to the chaos around him. And there is no loss of excitement in the story. Big action be damned.

2) Training: I am a big sucker for training stories. It has always been one of my favourite aspects of war movies (raw recruits becoming soldiers), martial arts movies (ninja and samurai mastering their weapons), and sports movies (especially the crappy baseball team going back to basics). I suppose it is because I like to learn and I like to teach, but it is also a wonderful tool of storytelling because it breathes life into characters very naturally. Character development must happen. There is no avoiding it when a character's raison d'etre is to change. And here, in The Magic of Recluce, Lerris is learning from the first page to the last, even when he is bored, even when he is seeking, even when he is teaching and even when he is just riding his pony. Lerris learns and that is good.

3) Woodworking: This may seem like an odd reason for loving the story, but the woodworking is quite a beautiful addition to The Magic of Recluce. It grounds our hero, is key to his search for his place in order and chaos, links him permanently to the land of his birth and provides him with an occupation when times get tight. And it is the latter economic use of woodworking that I liked best.

Fantasy novels and their characters rarely worry themselves with anything as mundane as money. Even the poorest farmboy turned hero just goes out in the world and has everything happen for him. There is some early testing adventure that puts him in danger, and when he walks away from it he has a full purse and food just falls into his lap whenever he needs it (either because he is an accomplished hunter or everyone's happy to give their food away). Not for Lerris. He makes his way through the Easthorns after a last ditch escape from Jellico and finds himself short on food and short on funds. So what does he do? He gets himself a gig as a journeyman woodworker and spends a good third of the novel becoming a master builder. This, of course, does much more for him than simply providing money (it is probably the most important part of his personal training), but to see a hero concerned with the day to day difficulties of living pushed The Magic of Recluce into rarified air for me.

It is a damn good novel, but the woodworking? The woodworking makes it great.
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Reading Progress

02/13 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Chris Great review, Brad. You nearly talked me into that final star.

message 2: by Brad (last edited Nov 03, 2010 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Hahaha. I wish I had. I am going to read your review again now.

message 3: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon Excellent review, Brad. I absolutely love the Star Wars comparison. Spot on observation (and wish I'd made the connection).


Brad Glad you liked it, Jon. I read it because of you (and our group, of course, but you put it on my radar).

message 5: by Chip (new)

Chip What is Jon's group? Also ... training montage.

message 6: by Brad (last edited Nov 04, 2010 01:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad It's the Sci-Fi and Fantasy group, Chip. We've actually sucked L.E. Modesitt Jr. to the group this month to discuss one sci-fi novel, Haze, and one Fantasy, The Magic of Recluce (click on the book title to go to the discussion). The discussion just kicked off so you should come and join in.

message 7: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon Chip wrote: "What is Jon's group? Also ... training montage."

Chip ... come join us here:

message 8: by Chip (last edited Nov 06, 2010 08:19AM) (new)

Chip Done. I will have to join. However, I am torn about my reading capability  with Jon. On the one hand, per Goodreads we are at about. 99%. On the other hand, she gave A Game of Thrones only one star. I'll just have to assume that was an error - clearly she meant five. Or six.

message 9: by mark (new)

mark monday yay for woodworking!

message 10: by j (new) - added it

j and goodreads compels me to add yet another lengthy fantasy novel to my how-am-i-ever-going-to-read list. nice review.

message 11: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Thanks, Joel.

message 12: by Milo (new) - added it

Milo My dad is a master woodworker himself. I should get him into the series.

message 13: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad He'd be the right guy for it.

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