I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In L. E. Modesitt's The Magic Engineer, we return to the magical island of Recluce, where Dorrin, a young scion of the Order magicians, is interested in forbidden knowledge, in the working of machines. Promising, intelligent, but determined to follow his passion for scientific knowledge, Dorrin can invent machines. He is the Leonardo da Vinci of his age, but his insights violate the rules of the Order magic of Recluce. Now he must go into exile in the lands of Chaos to pursue his dangerous inventions.
Yet Dorrin remains loyal to the idea of Order, and is tortured by the knowledge that to preserve it he must constantly create new devices for war. For the forces of the Chaos wizards are moving across the land, devouring whole countries and creating an empire--and their ultimate goal is the destruction of Recluce.
My least favourite of this Saga so far, but it is still a very readable book. There was just too much technical detail on blacksmithing and machine building for my taste. Those with engineering tendencies would be entranced I am sure (or would be happily critiquing the text).
In many ways, this book seems to be a carbon copy of the premise of the first book. Both Lerris (1st book) and Dorrin (this book) must take training and leave Recluce because they can’t find a way to be happy & fulfilled according the rules of Recluce. Lerris does it through magic, Dorrin through engineering.
Isn’t it always the way, that we have the most conflict with the parent who is the most like us? I butted heads with my father (we are both stubborn Danes who think we know best) and Dorrin & his father exhibit this intergenerational struggle perfectly. That I could identify with, although these two take it to an extreme.
Too much technical detail, and not nearly enough attention paid to important relationships. Dorrin is so completely clued out about emotional relationships that I ended up wanting one of his blacksmith’s hammers to beat him over the head with! His occasional flashes of insight about people’s motivations are all logic based and very few human actions are purely logic based (as much as economists would like to believe otherwise).
Book 323 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.
Extra note about the cover: The ship is steam powered, but there's a dude with an oar/paddle/pole on the left--why? Plus there are 3 guards standing around doing nothing! The one on the upper level seems to be sans trousers? I would find that distracting from what I was trying to do--but the woman on the cover isn't paying him any attention. Maybe it accounts for him staring so intently forward, so as to ignore his pantsless state. I do like the depiction of Dorrin on his horse Meriwhen. Unfortunately, this illustrates the unhappy moment when Dorrin has to leave her behind. I know that Darrell K. Sweet was a celebrated illustrator, but sometimes I wonder where he got some of his ideas....