The Towers of the Sunset is the second book, by order of publication, in L. E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluce. (First book: The Magic of Recluce) It’s a prequel, covering the story behind the founding of Recluce, the island haven of Order mages.

It takes awhile to get into Towers, not only because you’re unceremoniously dumped into a world still different from the first book, with completely different characters, but partly because of one of the book’s odder quirks: the narrative was written in the present tense.

Anyway, the main protagonist is a future Order wizard known simply as Creslin. To escape an impending arranged marriage, he plots a clever ruse to flee from the guards traveling with him and ski down to the lands to the East. From there, he slowly becomes aware of just how skilled he is with both sword and sorcery…which makes him some dangerous enemies.

The Towers of the Sunset is sort of a three-act book. The first part is Creslin’s escape to the the Western lands, and begins his quest to learn about his magical abilities. In the second part, he journeys to the city of Fairhaven (home of the conniving Chaos wizards), where they make it quite clear that they view him as an enemy. He also meets Megaera, the red-haired sorceress he ran from but ends up marrying anyway. The third and largest part is the story of Recluce. To elude the Chaos wizards, they both flee to the desert island of Recluce with a couple more Order wizards. There, they must re-shape the land and build a defensible city-state before the Chaos wizards crush them.

Modesitt’s style is decidedly different from most authors, and Towers has a good measure of frustrating to go with the good, but it was an enjoyable book overall.