The Magic Engineer is, possibly, my favorite of the Recluce books I have read so far. Like the rest of the books in the series, it’s set in a different age, with different characters and different political factions. The Chaos wizards of Fairhaven still have a hegemony extending across most of Candar, and they’re still pushing to extend it. Recluce, meanwhile, has grown to become a trade power that Fairhaven feels threatened by.

Dorrin is an Order wizard who grew up in Recluce, learning to heal and to smith iron. When he expresses interest in building steam-powered machines, the council of Recluce, who ignorantly think them “chaotic,” sends him away from the island nation on the infamous dangergeld. Dorrin, of course, has a more developed sense of the balance between the forces of Order and Chaos, and sets out to build his steam engine. After time spent apprenticed to a blacksmith in distant Spidlar, he eventually sets up his own shop and builds an ironclad steamboat that is just the thing Recluce needs to break Fairhaven’s blockade of the island. Though not before years of setbacks, and attacks on Spidlar from the Chaos wizards.

The Magic Engineer is the most different from the other Recluse novels that I have finished, though it still suffers from some of Modesitt’s writing quirks. Like onomatopoeia. But, really, when was the last time you read a (non-steampunk) fantasy novel with steam engines in it?