by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Hardcover: ISBN 0765305615 PubDate October 2002
558 pages List price $27.95
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L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is a very prolific and popular author. The release of the first book of a new series is good news to his many fans. So much so that when Tor published Legacies, Book One of the Corean Chronicles at the end of October two of our contributors had something to say about it. Both avid fans of the author, see if regular reviewer Bruce Wallace and guest contributor Lucy Cohen Schmeidler agree in their assessments of Modesitt’s latest work.
Legacies is a "typical" Modesitt fantasy, giving the account of a young Man's life from babyhood to maturity, and providing glimpses into an original fantasy world through the boy's growing understanding of the world around him. Many of the particulars are familiar: Units of measurement that aren't ours (glasses rather than hours, as used in previous series, vingts rather than kilometers or miles, etc.), a love interest, an ability to work magic (known in this world as "Talent"), which is possessed by some individuals, including the hero, a military draft, the experience of going from trainee to trooper to officer, given in painful detail, possibly to warn readers away from such a career or else to assure us that the author is familiar with it. And the young man, Alucius, learns, as young heroes do, that not all is as it seems, and the more he learns the fewer the teachers are who can complete his education, which comes to rely more and more on what he can figure out for himself.
Unfamiliar aspects of this world include the nightsheep that Alucius' family herds, scrats, grayjays, and sandwolves, and humanoid sanders and soarers (which seem to be, respectively, antagonistic and friendly towards humans). As the first book in a new series, Legacies ends with Alucius still a young man, still in the militia, but about to marry his childhood sweetheart anyway. He has accomplished a near impossible feat, which will be talked about for generations, of bringing home a company of soldiers who had been captured by the enemy and forced to fight in their army, preceded by an even more incredible act, which few know about, and none will ever speak of. But he has not worked out the nature of the sanders and soarers, nor why an earlier great civilization had collapsed in what is known simply as "the Cataclysm," leaving ruins and speculations and some accounts of a technology the like of which hasn't been seen since.
So why this book? We already have the Recluce Saga and the Spellsong Cycle, even though the latter starts with a middle-aged woman rather than a young man. (But even so, she has a lot to learn.) It looks to me as if Modesitt has some things to say, and having said them more than once, he is by no means finished. As his experience mounts and his technique becomes more practiced, he's trying to say some of the same things better, perhaps to new audiences and perhaps to regular fans who haven't quite caught on to what he's been talking about: the need to think before acting, and to act when something needs to be done; the need to try to understand the world and its functioning; and above all, perhaps, to act as a responsible adult, even if one is only thirty, or twenty, or fifteen. Or, as in my case, sixty-plus.
And in any case, it's a fun read.
Having read what she said, let's see what he says.
Legacies, is the first volume in a series that chronicles the world of Corus. Corus is a world fallen on hard times. Once peopled by a powerful, magic driven civilization that united the human populace in a great golden age it is now divided into several warring countries that fight amongst themselves for their own individual survival. Looming above them all is the powerful country of Madrien. Led by their immortal leader the Matrial, the armies of Madrien are slowly devouring the fragmented kingdoms of Corus.
We are given an introduction to this fallen world and its magic as Ellus; the father of Alucius is preparing to go off to war. He rides off giving leaving behind the promise of many a father gone off to war. "As sure as there are five seasons, I'll be back." He then rides off to war never to be seen again, leaving his wife and her father Royalt to raise Alucius the protagonist of this series.
The years pass and we learn of the hard life of Alucius and his family of Night Sheep herders. Indeed we lean that is a pretty grim affair in the Iron Valleys. We also learn of the talent they possess that gives them the edge over their neighbors as well as the magical predators that prey on their flocks. This same talent makes them targets of opportunity for the armies of the Matrial who desperately needs talented conscripts to power the quasi scientific / magical weapons she is have rebuilt from ancient lore as quickly as she can.
More years pass and it is Alucius' turn to go to war. His grandfather has spent a year training him in the skills of war as best he can and now is the time he must prove his readiness. Leaving his family and his intended behind he marches off to defend the Iron Valleys against the immediate danger of marauding bandits grown bold.
He is successful at this until the fateful night he and his fellow soldiers come up against the armies of the Matrial herself. Captured and enslaved by a magical collar that makes resistance impossible he finds himself faced with a no win situation. He is offered the chance of joining his captor's armies or certain death as a captive laborer. He chooses the former and it is at this point the tale is truly launched.
Many fans of L.E. Modesitt, Jr. might view this series as a retelling of his famous Recluce Saga. It does have some of the same facets. A world ruled by a matriarchy bent on holding men at fault for the troubles of the world as well their own ill treatment. Corus is also a world in which in which magic and science are mixed to the point where one cannot properly distinguish where the one ends and the other begins and this certainly reminds us of Recluse. However it also offers us strong characters, a brand new world with its own subset of peoples, magical beings and beasties. Initially I will admit that I thought I had read this book before, however when all was said and done I felt that I could honestly say that this was the beginning of a brand new series and I was glad for it. Old fans of L.E. Modesitt, Jr. will thrill at this new series because there is certainly enough of Recluce here to feel that you are back home without having to travel down the same old roads again. New fans will thrill at the prospect of being in at the start of a brand new world!