One of my favorite books of all time is The Towers of the Sunset by L.E. Modesitt Jr. First Published in 1992, it was for me a watershed book, introducing me to the world of Recluce. Though it is the second installment in the series, it is a stand alone book and is a prequel to the classic, The Magic of Recluce. I am a huge fan of Modesitt's style. He writes with an economy of words, and yet you are drawn into his world, to the exclusion of everything else.
Okay, there is no blurb. This is one of those Big 6 published books where, in their wisdom, they quit putting blurbs on books and instead put glowing comments from Interzone, Publisher's Weekly, and the (now) late Jo Clayton on the back cover instead. I do think a blurb helps to sell a book. This is the only fault I could find with the book, but I bought it for the cover art, because, hey, it's what I always do. The cover art is awesome, and in this case it introduced me to an amazing author. (Of course the cover is awesome--it's published by Tor and they do great covers.)
In the world of Recluce there are two different kinds of magic, White (chaos magic), and Black (order magic). Depending on the book in this series, you find yourself on either side of the magic issue, and in this book it is the Black that is the “good-guys”.
Creslin is the unwanted son of the powerful Marshall of Westwind, an all-female military city-state. Creslin has begun to show the signs of being strong in the Black magic of Order. He is betrothed against his will to Megaera, the sister of the Tyrant of Sarronnyn. She is a powerful White Wizard, and is considered an abomination, as the female societies are very much Order based and Sarronnyn is similarly a female military-run country. Creslin flees eastward to the lands where men are free to make their own rules, but where he is captured by the White magicians, and forced to labor building the great highway.
He is aided by two Black wizards. He is finally forced into a corner and must marry his less-than-thrilled fiancée, Megaera. She has been manipulated by her sister and by magic into the marriage herself. The two are forced into exile and undertake the regency of the desolate isle of Recluce. Although it’s barren, they hope to turn it into a prosperous haven free of the White wizards. Creslin and Megaera bicker constantly, and she is downright cruel to him, but they are tied to each other magically and they must somehow learn to live together, or they will die. The wizards of Fairhaven have other plans, and Creslin must master his own powers, make the desert Recluce bloom, and defeat the Chaos magicians if he hopes to survive.
Creslin and Megaera have many ordeals to overcome, not the least of which is Megaera’s horrible treatment of him.
This is a big, sweeping epic fantasy and yet it is an intimate story of love and strong women and men learning to coexist when there may be no common ground, no middle for them to meet. This is the real story, for me.
I absolutely love Modesitt’s magic system. It is unique, and completely believable. His social system is quite detailed and amazing too. Modesitt spends time building the worlds his characters must live in and the world of Recluce is clearly defined and easily visualized as you read any of the many books in this series.
Some people have disparaged this particular book because of the way Megaera treats Creslin, and also the way Modesitt builds the first half of the book. Some people don't like the present tense point of view. I liked it for precisely ALL those reasons, even though I am not normally a fan of this p.o.v.. If you are looking for a real fantasy adventure, with a unique world and engaging characters this is it. I am a huge fan of +L.E. Modesitt Jr., not just of his Recluce series, but of ALL his work. Nearly all of Modesitt’s science fiction works, such as the Parafaith War and the Time Diver duology are also books that have become classics in my library.