Scepters is the third volume in Modesitt's Corean Chronicles. Alucius is back on his nightsheep ranch and is herding the sheep with his wife Wendra and has a baby on the way. In the last volume, Darknessess, Alucius was promised by the Lord-Protector that he would not be called back up into military service. But the danger to Lanachrona is increasing and there are powers behind the scenes manipulating things so that Alucius will not be involved in their main power play. At first this is to keep Alucius back on the stead, but later it is to get him militarily involved but only so long as he is far away from the front. Ultimately Alucius is not ordered to rejoin the military, but he is requested and the request is made in such a manner that declining would put his entire community in jeopardy. A choice that is no choice.
In many ways Alucius is a typical Modesitt hero. Alucius is reluctant to become involved but is of such a high moral code that he understands that he needs to because it is the right thing to do, and also because he knows that not acting will cause a greater evil. When Alucius acts he acts in such a way that whomever or whatever is opposing him will never be able to rise up. He leads from the front and will kill with extreme prejudice when it becomes necessary. Around Alucius it often becomes necessary.
Modesitt spins a story of Alucius confronting an ancient evil trying to overthrow the world. A standard fantasy theme, but the heart of the novel, as is the case with much of Modesitt's work, is of the day to day struggles of Alucius in finding out what is really going on. Alucius is frequently in the dark as to the real nature of the threat and as a soldier he must go where he is sent. But due to extreme skill, Alucius is frequently promoted.
So, is it good?
Reading the two previous novels in this sequence are necessary because Modesitt only references things we learn in those novels. The novel is decent enough, but is a standard Modesitt novel and I get the feeling that if the author set the events in his Recluse setting, we would not know the difference.
The story is really a simple one, and we have a protagonist who unfortunately has something of a Superman complex. A very moral man who gets unbelievable power and never once slips the Dark Side.
You know, Scepters is a decent novel but nothing to make one stand up and cheer the genre. It's fine, but simple and predictable (does Alucius ever fail? Can he?). If a reader likes other stuff by Modesitt that reader will most likely enjoy this as well. So much of what Modesitt writes has the same feel and tone and in some cases, storyline. But, if a reader spaces out Modesitt's work and doesn't read it all back to back to back, that sameness will not be overbearing.