SERIES REVIEW: The Corean Chronicles by LE Modesitt, Jr.

Legacies (2002)
Darknesses (2003)
Scepters (2004)
Alector’s Choice (2005)
Cadmian’s Choice (2006)
Soarer’s Choice (2006)
The Lord-Protector’s Daughter (2008)
Lady-Protector (2011)

The Corean Chronicles isn’t a fantasy series that I see a lot about. In fact, on the parts of the book community I interact with online, LE Modesitt, Jr isn’t a name that appears a lot. One of the reasons for this might be the length of the series: The Corean Chronicles consists of eight books set in the same universe, but it’s essentially three separate storylines in the chronology of Corus (the world). The series comes out to over 4,000 mass market paperback pages, which is definitely a deep reading experience. 

The first three books in the series, Legacies, Darknesses, & Scepters, comprise a complete trilogy. In this trilogy, we follow Alucius, a herder who gets conscripted into the military. Alucius quickly becomes an excellent soldier, rising through the ranks before being captured by the enemy. His attempts to escape (with the aid of a forbidden magical ability) set in motion a dangerous and world-altering series of events that rises to a climax in the final novel. 

The next three books in the series, Alector’s Choice, Cadmium’s Choice, & Soarer’s Choice, comprise the second trilogy. Set thousands of years before the first three books, this trilogy focuses on two characters: Dainyl, an Alector (magical being) who is one of the highest ranking officials in the world & Mykel, a young officer in the military who might unknowingly possess a very dangerous magical ability. When Mykel starts noticing things aren’t making sense on his deployments & Dainyl notices strange maneuvering in the government he works for, they both find themselves on a collision course with a conspiracy that threatens both of their ways of life.

The final two books in the series comprise a duology, though to me it feels more like one book that a publisher split into two volumes. In this final storyline, we follow Mykella, the eldest daughter of the Lord-Protector of Lanachrona. This duology echoes a lot of the beats in the first two trilogies, but differs in that it follows a woman trying to rule a land that has only ever been ruled by men. It’s a good story, set a few hundred years after the second trilogy, with a set of characters that are fun to follow.

I try to read fantasy series in chronological order, even when they’re published out of order. This might not be unique to me, but I feel that reading a series (or watching a film series) in chronological order gives me more of a sense of history, a sense of cause and effect. I didn’t read the Corean Chronicles in chronological order, though, because I didn’t know until I was already reading the first trilogy that it was the latest in the chronology. This wasn’t a huge deal, so I read the series in publication order. 

First trilogy is definitely the strongest. I’m not sure if that’s because the world is still novel, but I felt the story had a narrative progression that kept sweeping upwards, giving me a sense that something big really was coming. The second trilogy seems like you’re reading the first trilogy again, only with different characters and a slightly different power balance. I would definitely say that books 4-6 were a slog at times. The last duology was a good way to end my time on Corus. Though it suffers from some of the repetition of the first two trilogies, Mykella’s story is one I still think about long after having finished it.

One thing I found a little strange was that everyone uses the same military command structure over the thousands of years that these books take place. The military uses mounted riflemen and sabers in all the books, so the technology doesn’t really change either (except in the second trilogy when the Alectors, the powerbrokers of Corus, have beasts called pterydons that can fly). Also, for some reason, everybody still eats egg toast for breakfast, no matter who they are and what time period they’re in.

I think LE Modesitt Jr’s writing style is an acquired taste. I actually started listening to Legacies as an audiobook years ago, but gave up on it because the story was slow. I gave the audiobook another try earlier this year because I was in the mood for a slower fantasy series. On my second listen, I found myself enjoying the writing style a bit more, and it made me want to read the other books. After finding the paperbacks for cheap online (the entire stack cost me $35, including shipping), I stopped listening to the audiobooks and started reading the physical copies. That’s not a criticism of the audiobook narrator either. In fact, Kyle McCarley somehow made a unique voice for every single one of the characters, even the ones who only had one or two lines of dialogue in the entire book. He never used the same voice twice, and he never deviated from the character’s voices throughout the entire book.

This series isn’t an action-packed, edge of your seat kind of story. While there are some epic battle scenes, the bulk of the series is more akin to a mystery novel, where our characters try to find out who’s pulling the strings of the current conflict. The characters in the first trilogy and last duology are pretty well fleshed out. I really like Alucius from the first trilogy and Mykalla from the final duology. They’re both extremely interesting characters who grow throughout their journeys (sometimes in brutal ways). I will note that I never really felt scared for Alucius because he’s just so damn good at everything, and humble to a fault. He’s not a Gary Stu, but he is right at the border.  Mykel and Dainyl from the second trilogy were almost indistinguishable from each other. They both talked the same and thought the same, to the point that I had to sometimes go back to the beginning of a chapter to check who was speaking.

Overall, this series was an enjoyable experience. The world of Corus is full of rich detail and an arcane history that is elusive to everyone, even the reader. I wanted more worldbuilding (I always want more worldbuilding, though), and I would definitely read another book set in this world if Mr. Modesitt ever decides to write one. 

Legacies: 7/10
Darknesses: 7/10
Scepters: 8/10
Alector’s Choice: 5/10
Cadmian’s Choice: 5/10
Soarer’s Choice: 6/10
The Lord-Protector’s Daughter: 7/10
Lady-Protector: 8/10

The Corean Chronicles is published by Tor Books.

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