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Book Review:
L.E. Modesitt Jr., Wellspring Of Chaos

by Jerry Wright

Wellspring Of Chaos
Author: L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Hardcover: April, 2004
Length: 400pp
ISBN: 0765309076
Price: $27.95

L.E. Modesitt created an interesting world and system of (for lack of a better word) magic when he came up with the concept of Recluce and Order versus Chaos. This is book 12 in the ongoing story of Recluce, and is a better book than a number of its predecessors, albeit it is really only half a book. Yeah, it ends on a high note, but the protagonist, Kharl, has not done what obviously needs to be done to bring his story to a conclusion.

You'll like Kharl, the Cooper (barrel-maker) even if he is a bit thick-headed. He is the finest cooper in the town of Brysta, and satisfied with his life. However unlike most people, when he sees a wrong (such as a neighbor girl about to be raped) he does what he can to keep it from happening. Unfortunately, the young bravos intent on "taking their pleasure" with the girl happen to be the captain of the Guard (who is also the son of the Lord) and his friends.

Kharl is framed for the murder of a different girl who he rescues after she IS raped by the same characters, but the difference is SHE is a "blackstaffer", a temporary exile from Recluce. When Kharl's friends are able to prove that he couldn't have done the deed, his consort (i.e. "wife") is summarily charged and hanged, and his children quickly get away from him. However, before he is forced away from his town, business, and life, he ends up with the girl's black staff, and a book, The Basis Of Order. Modesitt excerpts little passages from the book, and we see interesting things about Order, and Chaos.

Kharl finds friends in different places, and as Second Carpenter on an Austran ship visits the various island continents of the World and learns more about this staff he has been drawn to, and finds his innate sense of Order, and the need to do what is right and just growing.

There are other reviews which will happily tell you the basic plot-structure of Wellspring Of Chaos, but I say, read it for yourself. If you've never read a Recluce book, this would be a pretty good one to start with, as there is much Kharl doesn't know about, well, just about everything, and things that the reader needs to know are introduced appropriately.

There are many threads here that become apparent on a second reading of the book (yeah, I liked it that well) such as "the Justiciar's Challenge" which it seems pretty obvious to me that Kharl will be issuing come book 2.

A couple of irritations. Darrell K. Sweet (at least, I think it is him, as his artwork is pretty distinctive) gives Kharl a brown staff with black iron bindings, and the cover of the book I've got is somewhat different than all the cover graphics I can find, in that the person Kharl is attacking is no longer a faceless robed character in white, but an actual man, although he remains in white and has an vague "chaotic glow" around him.

Anyway, I liked the book, liked the growth of the character, and although it isn't the best of the Recluce books, perhaps when Kharl's saga is complete, it may be...

Anyway, it stays on MY shelf.

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