The Mongrel Mage
The Recluce Saga - Book #19
by L.E. Modesitt, Jr
I love L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I've read every single one of his books. One of the popular criticisms against him is that you can take any of his protagonists, put them in any of his other books, and the story still works. This is true, but I've never minded because his stories are so good, and his protagonists are so compelling.
That's not true in this book. The Mongrel Mage is a slogfest for the first 75% of the story. The real story and action doesn't pick up until 3/4 of the way through. Instead, Modesitt, Jr spends page after page describing the food the characters eat and the books that Beltur reads and small talk between characters.
Typically in a well-written book (like Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, for example), the story is tight. Few words are wasted. You don't describe a meal unless it's relevant or adds color to the story. You don't waste a page on dialogue that has no relevance to the story.
Modesitt, Jr does all of that over and over in this series.
I decided that due to his popularity and ability to sell books, the editors gave him a little too much freedom and didn't push back enough on this whopper of a boring book.
Honestly, had he cut the middle 3/5 and kept the first and last quintile of the book, it would have been an exciting read. But the middle bits were a slog, and I'm not sure I can really recommend this book to anyone. He's given me enough good books that I'll pick up the next one, but... I dunno, man. Just not feeling it.