The Mongrel Mage (Saga of Recluce)
by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765394682
Date: 31 October 2017 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Saga of Recluce continues with another grey mage. In the earlier novels, the focus tended to be on those who were mostly pure black or white, but when looking back it is clear that all of the mages were a little grey as they tended to use order and chaos in interesting and unique ways.
Beltur lives in Gallos studying under his uncle. His uncle Kaerylt chooses to be independent which is not a thing to be in Gallos. Beltur, Kaerylt, and another apprentice mage Sydon are hired to check on raiders and the loss of women to Westwind.
Their mission and return are not what was expected. A chance meeting provides Beltur a chance to survive and thrive by taking a different path. Beltur recognizes that his future isn't in Gallos or following the white path. He will need to learn new techniques and take risks if his new home is to survive.
This is the nineteenth novel in the Saga of Recluce. There is also a collection of short stories which track the whole span of the series. This is one of the top-selling fantasy series with a large number of fans.
Beltur is a rarity, a white mage who is more closely aligned with order. He is an okay white mage, likely because of the teaching and guidance of his uncle. But his true strength is in the use of order. His knowledge of white mage techniques and the ability to handle chaos may allow Betur to use more creative order uses with less blowback than is typical for Order Masters. There is an additional novel in the works following Beltur. This fits with the typical duology for most Recluce novels following characters.
I have been reading the Saga of Recluce for nearly 30 years. I still enjoy the detail that goes into developing the economy and how mages fit into this world. Black mages nearly always need to take up some form of trade to survive. In this case, it shows the struggles of Whites before the rise of Fairhaven and how they had to be mercenary to make ends meet. Destruction is not a commodity which has a wide market.
As the start of a new duology, it is an entrance point, but maybe not the best entrance point. The author recommends readers use his publication order. Others prefer to start with Magi'i of Cyador which is the chronological start to the series. I don't have a recommendation on that front, but I do recommend the whole series, which with this novel is now eligible for the new Hugo Series Award and is deserving.