WELLSPRING OF CHAOS
The prolific Modesitt's 12th Recluce fantasy, his first since 2001's Scion of Cyador , delights from start to finish. In the city of Brysta on the island of Nordla, Kharl, a cooper, has a prosperous business and a loving, if not perfect, family. He's also a man who can't help doing right, no matter the cost to himself. He soon pays a heavy price for twice offending the local lord's dastardly son by his good deeds: first, he rescues a neighbor's daughter from two upper-class louts trying to rape her; second, he saves the life of Jenevra, a Recluce blackstaffer (or mage), after she's attacked and left in the street to die. When someone later cuts Jenevra's throat, Kharl is arrested for the crime, but at the trial he can only watch as the local lord arranges to have the cooper's wife hanged for a murder neither of them committed. Hounded from the only home he's known, Kharl ends up on the run with only a few coins to his name—and Jenevra's staff and book. Kharl's slow transformation from family man to lonely wanderer, from solid citizen to wanted outlaw, from simple right-thinking craftsman to fledgling order-master and wizard, makes for a relentless and absorbing story. In a genre saturated with callow youngsters who grow into heroes, Modesitt effortlessly builds an epic adventure around an ordinary, middle-aged man. This marks a welcome new chapter in the Recluce saga, with the ending all but promising a sequel. (Apr. 26)
FYI: Modesitt's last novel was The Ethos Effect (Forecasts, Oct. 6).