One of my favourite Modesitt books.
This is the third book published of the Recluce Saga and is within the central/later timeline as the series covers roughly two thousand years of history. It is a standalone though there is a later companion duology that covers some of the same story from the ‘bad’ guys viewpoint.
We have basically a single POV in this book, that of Dorrin, though there are a few short POV chapters of others scattered throughout. Dorrin is from a privileged background, his father an Order master but his curiosity for building machines ends up with him being exiled from Recluce to the continent of Candar where he ends up in an increasing precarious position due to a brewing war between his adopted country and the White Wizards from Fairhaven, all the while trying to earn a living and building the machines he is so obviously obsessed with.
Modesitt books are not for everybody. There are large parts of all of them that are involved in the everyday activity of a person that some might find boring. For some reason I never have and keep coming back to them. They are almost a comfort read at this stage. This book has lots and lots of chapters about smithing, healing and trying to learn and make a living. When action happens it tends to be quick but impactful and the consequences are very real, both to our protagonist and others around him.
Another aspect of his books I’ve always enjoyed it that there are no clear cut right and wrong answers in them. The author tries to show the good and bad of every perspective and that even the enemies of Dorrin create a lot of good and prosperity in their wake. Dorrin himself is driven and brilliant though I did end up really disliking his constant modesty, it felt false and forced but other than that I enjoyed every minute of this. It had been quite a while since I read this so it was nice to go back.
There is a lot of repetition of themes in Recluce books but this is one of the best, at least in the early books and I’m sure I’ll read it again. Recommended for something a little outside the norm.