Saturday, July 24, 2010

Girl on Book Action: The Magic Engineer by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Magic Engineer by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
ISBN: 0-812-53405-0


"Now in The Magic Engineer, we return to the magical island of Recluce, where Dorrin, a young scion of the Order magicians, is interested in forbidden knowledge, in the workings of machines. Promising, intelligent, but determined to follow his passion for scientific knowledge, Dorrin can invent machines. He is the Leonardo da Vinci of his age, but his insights violate the rules of the Order magic of Recluce. Now he must go into exile in the lands of Chaos to pursue his dangerous inventions.

"Yet he remains loyal to the idea of Order, and is tortured by the knowledge that to preserve it he must constantly create new devices for war. For the forces of the Chaos wizards are moving across the land, devouring whole countries and creating an empire -- whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Recluce."


: The blurb is once more from the official fan site since these books don’t seem to have back-cover blurbs on them. This site is also very useful if you need to figure out in what order to read the books, so you should definitely have a look at it.

My Thoughts:

The Magic Engineer
is the third book in the Recluce series and if you remember I reviewed the first and the second already. When reviewing the second I said that I was hoping that this next one would not also be another coming-of-age of a hero story and I was, of course, disappointed. The first section, in particular, felt as if I was just reading The Magic of Recluce and The Towers of the Sunset again, but the later parts of the book turned out to be entertaining in their own way. Still, I have a feeling I’m mostly going to gripe about the things I didn’t like, rather than tell you it’s a great book. Despite all of that, I do feel it was worth reading, because it added depth to my understanding of the magic system of this world and I enjoyed some of the characters quite a bit.

So, let me gripe.

Aside from the already-mentioned repetitiveness, I have my usual nit-picky complaints about bad editing. Once again, there were enough small errors (repetition of words, extra words like “the” or “is”) and misspellings that I started to really notice them. I can only tolerate so many mistakes before it starts to bother me and this book had enough that it was annoying.

Some of the very detailed descriptions of the smithing process got to be tedious and I’d skip over entire paragraphs that pretty much just told me how something was made with a bunch of jargon I didn’t understand. It’s great that Modesitt seems to have done a bunch of research to know about blacksmithing, but that doesn’t mean he has to describe every minute detail, or if he wants to show off his knowledge he can do it once or twice. There were too many “Dorrin hits hot metal with his hammer, turns metal, hits metal again, makes metal hotter” scenes. Nevermind that I don’t know what it means when something is being “fullered,” which came up quite frequently.

I’m starting to really dislike the relationships in these books and I guess the portrayal of some of the women, or at least, the women that the main characters end up with. Creslin and Megeara were a painful couple to read about since she didn’t really get a choice, and Dorrin’s love for Kadara seemed like it was a set-up for a similar relationship. I was pleased when that didn’t develop (oops, was that a spoiler?), but the relationship he has with Liedral didn’t really do anything for me. I actually think a novel about Kadara might have been more interesting since she is a dual-wielding warrior, rather than a smith who gets headaches when he so much as lies because it’s not order-based. I suppose some of this might go back to my preference for female protagonists.

Hmm, I think that’s all of my major complaints. I have to say again, that I hope the next book is not more of the same. I don’t think I have book four on hand so it may be a while before I get around to reading it, so at least if it is more of the same the first three will have faded in my memory a little.

Now that all of the griping is out of the way, let me leave you with some positive thoughts. I really enjoyed reading about the Chaos wizards and all of their scheming and intriguing. Now, a book about the Chaos side would be really interesting. The fact that if you use too much magic the other side gets stronger was also a good aspect of the world-building. The idea of a balance between white and black / chaos and order worked really well in the story and made it so neither side could just overpower the other. The last item I liked was that using magic for Dorrin and other order-based wizards in order to destroy or kill doesn't just give them moral anguish, but causes actual physical pain and blindness. So when characters regret their actions with regard to destruction (on the Order side of things) they don't just do it out of some navel-gazing sense of morality, but because it physically hurts them.

So, there were some good aspects to the novel. While the world building and magic system in these books will likely keep me coming back to read more, it would be more interesting if the characters were more varied and the story lines unique.

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