The 13th volume in the popular Saga of Recluce follows directly on the events of the last. The cooper Kharl, forced into unlikely heroism in Wellspring of Chaos, has just taken possession of the estate bestowed upon him by Lord Ghrant of Austra for his aid in subduing an attempted coup, when he is summoned back to the capital.

Lord-Chancellor Hagen needs help dealing with rebellious nobles in a bloody campaign—in which Kharl discovers and is forced to use even more deadly magic. With Ghrant's throne secured, Kharl is a famous and feared figure. When he has to return to his homeland of Nordla as Ghrant's envoy, he discovers old enemies still making trouble and plots that threaten both his native country and his new home.

Kharl is a unique and surprising hero in a genre inundated with coming-of-age tales; his age and experience allow for a welcome new outlook in a tale of epic scope. Kharl's journey from small-town cooper to notorious mage is extremely well done, with a plot that forces him to confront the ghosts of his past and put to rest his old self.

As in the best works about average people forced to extraordinary measures, Modesitt succeeds in making Kharl a realistic and believable person, not just a magic-wielding hero. Readers will need to be familiar with the previous volume, but an in-depth knowledge of the series isn't necessary to enjoy this heroic adventure. (Jan., 560 pp., $27.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum