Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book 81: Darknesses

L. E. Modesitt, Jr has created a world, or at least a continent, called Corus which bears striking similarities to that of his most famous series The Saga of Recluse. The first two books in The Corean Chronicles features a storyline which should be familiar to those who have read several Recluse novels in that a young man who is highly competent but does not know as much as he should is put into situations where he must succeed and excel or he will likely die. The young man becomes more than he thought he was while claiming he is nothing but a simple herder. The magic system here is not explained well, but it has to do with feel, intuition, seeing lines of power, shades of color and darkness being the color of decent humanity. A reader could make a case that this series picks up thousands of years after The Death of Chaos even though I suspect that Modesitt would not claim any connection between Recluse and Corus. Darknesses is the second volume of The Corean Chronicles and Alucius is now a Captain in the Iron Valley Militia. He is serving out his time so he can go home to his wife and family and live a quiet life as a herder, but he knows there is some evil out there because he has already confronted so much and is already legendary among those who have heard his exploits. Alucius himself remains humble and quiet, though he is death to any who stand in his way. Alucius, like many of Modesitt's heroes, will do whatever is necessary so that he and his men stay alive. It is called brutal efficiency and his skill at "Talent", the magic system of Corus is what makes him doubly so successful.

Darknesses moves Alucius up the ranks while others plot against him because of a level of Talent skill which he possesses but does not know about. Alucius has no ambition other than staying alive and returning home, but others view him as a threat. After the first fifty to perhaps a hundred pages Darknesses picks up as the reader becomes immersed in this world and story. Modesitt gives a wealth of detail about the mundane life, but it is all about building a sense of place and character that we know as much as Alucius does (though many thoughts and revelations are left unexplained, like saying "aha!" without explaining why) and that we can understand the character of Alucius. There is a very limited narrator in that much of the novel follows Alucius and we get many of his thoughts, but we also are put into the heads of various other important characters for very short chapters so that we have a hint of the other plots that are ongoing against Alucius.

Darknesses reads much like a Recluse novel, just without the Order versus Chaos magic dynamic, and this is a compliment. It is perhaps a backhanded compliment because there is not a very large distinction between Corus and Recluse and it feels like this story could just have easily have been told in Recluse as it was in Corus. There is a smooth and easy flow to Modesitt's writing and Darknesses was an enjoyable read.

No comments: