Saturday, December 16, 2006

The White Order

The White Order (Saga of Recluce)

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Date: 15 April, 1999   —   $7.19   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy

Modesitt's Saga of Recluce is interesting in that there are several ways to read it. You can read it in the order it was written; you can read it in the chronological order of the books. Or you can start from the middle and work out. This is not a bad starting book, though it differs from most of the books in significant ways.

The Recluce books are all about the shifting of order (symbolized by black) and chaos (symbolized by white.) Both forces can be brought to bear by mage practicioners, and both are theoretically valueless, though practitioners of order soon find it difficult to be dishonest (including humble exaggerations) and wielders of chaos will often become more paranoid and dangerous with more use. Unlike most of the other books in the saga, The White Order (and its sequel The Colors of Chaos) follow a practitioner of chaos rather than of order.

Cerryl is a poor boy, adopted by his aunt and uncle in the west of Candar. His aunt keeps him away from mirrors, but he grows up otherwise normally, though he knows caution from the start, because his father wanted to be a mage, and the Guild of Fairhaven killed him.

When Cerryl gets older, he is apprenticed to a millworker, and he maneuvers the millworker's daughter into teaching him to read (and, incidentally, more polished grammar.) After his aunt and uncle are killed, Cerryl gets a chance to move up in the world by going to Fairhaven, a move that eventually wins him a place in the Wizards' Guild. Where somebody— or possibly several somebodies— wants to see him killed.

Cerryl knows the danger is there, but he has to learn. In common with many of Modesitt's protagonists, what starts as a simple attempt to survive leads into increasing danger and power; most of the actions seem logical at the time, but the cumulative effect is astonishing. At the end of the novel, Cerryl survives by the skin of his teeth, but you know that the worst is yet to come.

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