Fantasy Book Review: Fairhaven Rising by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Fantasy Book Review

Fairhaven Rising
Author: L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Publication Date: February 16, 2021
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Genres: Fantasy,
Shelves: Female-fronted

Although I found the last Saga of Recluce arc to be a little dry and sluggish, the standoff in Haven and establishment of Fairhaven were high points, and the development of Taelya left me excited for Fairhaven Rising. Much to my delight, L.E. Modesitt Jr. has doubled down on the female-fronted action, pairing white mage Taelya with black mage Kaeryla in leading the charge against duplicitous rulers and misogynistic armies.

It takes a while for this, the twenty-second book of the series, to get started, but the recapping of history and reintroduction of characters makes for an easy entry for new readers. There's a lot of time invested in exploring Order and Chaos, particularly how the two of them can be paired and separated to provide mages with greater diversity, and there are some fantastic ideas for weaponizing defensive magics like containments and shields. From a world-building perspective, it makes for a fascinating read, and it really explores Taelya's role as a natural leader.

Modesitt has always played with gender roles, particularly with the female-dominated realm of Westwind, but here he makes it more personal. Taelya and Kaeryla are underestimated, dismissed, and sexualized, constantly surprising the men they come up against. Over the course of the story they prove themselves stronger and smarter, constantly upping the drama until the story becomes one of two women mages against a world of soldiers.

There are some huge implications to the story, political developments that promise to rewrite the map of Candar and bring Fairhaven into its own as a power to be reckoned with. It's not a victory that comes easy, however, with so many powers playing off one another, hiding treachery and conflicting motives behind opportunistic alliances. It's not a simple good-vs-evil story, or even a straightforward tale of conquest or rebellion, but one of shifting powers and fluid borders.

The world-building, the progression of magic, the advancement of Fairhaven and its ideals, and the leadership of Taelya all make Fairhaven Rising a fantastic addition to the saga.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.