Alucius lives in the land of Corus which used to be ruled by a great civilization until some sort of cataclysm occurred. Now the continent is divided into several countries that are on the verge of war. Alucius, who we see grow from a young boy to a young man, just wants to get married to a nice girl and live as a peaceful herder on his family’s stead. But war comes and Alucius is drafted into the army where he rises rapidly in the ranks.
As a herder, Alucius has inherited the “Talent” which allows him to sense the presence of others and underlies some of his uncanny battle skills. But he must hide the Talent and try to make his successes seem natural because most people who aren’t herders either fear or would like to exploit him. This becomes especially true when he gets captured by the army of the Matrial, an evil woman who rules over an empire that enslaves men. Alucius knows he must escape the Matrial without his Talent being discovered, but he hopes to do more to the evil empire than just escape it.
Since I’m just now, in late 2014, coming to the COREAN CHRONICLES (and this is actually the first book I’ve read by Modesitt, which is probably significant), I can’t say that I find anything new and exciting in Legacies — it mostly feels like a standard epic fantasy where a reluctant hero battles the forces of darkness in order to save his country from destruction. All the familiar tropes are here except that there’s no magic sword.
However, there are a couple of things that stand out as unusual (though still not terribly exciting). Most obviously is that even though the evil empire is a matriarchy, there is a feministic bent to the story. The Matrial’s country became evil when she managed to magically enslave the men, which she did because the men were basically treating the women as property and slaves. Alucius, a man who is rather pensive except when it comes to considering why he loves his fiancé (I’m not sure why they love each other) realizes why the Matrial feels the need to subjugate men and reflects on his own society’s treatment of women. That’s nice, and I hope that will go somewhere in the sequels. I’m also intrigued by the great civilization that used to reign in Corus. What happened to them and did they leave any information or technology behind? I’d like to know. There are plenty of other questions to answer, too, such as what are the Soarers, and what is their role in Corus?
Too much of the plot of Legacies details the minutia of battles and preparation for battles — troop movements and formations, scout placement, terrain, equipment, etc. But just about every time I’d start to think “here he goes again, too much battle minutia,” something important would finally happen. So, I think the pace could be better, but someone who enjoys military fantasy may think it’s just right. Readers who want a more “gray” or less competent or reluctant hero may want to look elsewhere. It gets a little tiring when all the other characters keep talking about how amazing the sweet and humble Alucius is. He seems to be the only character who doesn’t think so.
On a weird note, I can’t tell you how many times Modesitt mentions Alucius taking a drink of water. I wondered if perhaps something would come of this, like that his powers would suddenly fail due to dilutional hyponatremia, but that didn’t happen, which I’m glad about. I like Alucius and wish him no harm.
The reason I read Legacies is because it was just released on audio by Tantor Audio with an astonishingly bad cover. While I really like the voice of the narrator, Kyle McCarley, I found some of his voices annoying, especially at the beginning. Fortunately, when Alucius becomes an adult, the narration improved significantly, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this 21-hour long version.
If you’re looking for a pleasant but not brilliant epic fantasy with a nice and competent protagonist, Legacies will probably please you. It’s a comfortably familiar coming of age story that is appropriate for teens as well as adults. I’ll probably try more novels in the COREAN CHRONICLES.