Mykella, Princess of Lanachrona, has just survived a coup by her Uncle and nephew, aimed at killing her and her father, and her Uncle taking over the country. But Mykella has magic, and by virtue of her being strong enough to use it to slay her uncle, she is now Lady-Protector of Lanachrona.
But ascending to the highest office in the land is by no means easy on Mykella. One of her sisters hates her because she felt something for the man she was being forced to marry, while the other is too busy training to be a warrior to take the time to care much at all. And not every man in the Kingdom relishes serving under a female Protector. Some of them are the same men that were fleecing both her father and Lanachrona with their penny-pinching and inefficient or downright treasonous ways, while others just think that a woman- any woman, is unfit to rule.
Mykella must now find men that she can trust to run the Kingdom efficiently and deal with the entrenched problems that came from the disinterest and outright theft of monies from the Kingdom's coffers, pay for the needed repairs to bring everything back up to where it should be, and ensure that similar problems don't occur in the future. Among those problems are the army, which is too small and underfunded to defend a country the size of Lanachrona,and finding someone that the troops can trust and will follow to war, not to mention train new troops to an acceptable standard and use them to keep Lanachrona free from its enemies, which even now are amassing along its borders.
As well as enemies from her own world, Mykella must keep Lanachrona and her world safe for enemies from other worlds, those with the same powers that she has, or even greater, who would like nothing more than to invade and make her world like their own, either dead and lifeless, or so regimented and autocratic that it would almost be better to be dead than live in a world like that.
There are signs of hope. For one thing, there are men on her side, and those who she can put her trust in. Remaking Lanachrona into the country and the world it was supposed to be will not be easy, but Mykella isn't one to give up or give in, no matter how hopeless or dire the situation seems to be. And if she can just find enough trustworthy men and women, she may be able to save her country. But war is coming, and is not without cost. Can Mykella survive without giving up the core of who she is, and what kind of sacrifices will be necessary to save her land? Can Mykella bear the cost of victory- or of defeat?
I was pleasantly surprised to see L.E. Modesitt Jr. finally finish a mere trilogy. Except for the "Empire and Ecolitan" series of two books, most of his series are ongoing, and manage to take five or more books to finish. And this one, thankfully enough, was less about Mykella being proved wrong about everything by her teachers and having to support their views with essays, but with Mykella having to be her own teacher and learn by doing. Yes, she's somewhat supported by the non-human Soarer, but it only tells her what she must do, not how to go about it.
And honestly, that's one of the things that had bugged me about L.E. Modesitt's recent books, that they had degenerated into a same-old, same-old that was getting boring and repetitive to read. This one was more in line with "The Magic of Recluce", the first Modesitt book I had read, in that the main character learns better by doing, rather than being lectured or told he is wrong (well, he does get told he's wrong, but he refuses to accept it and has to learn better by himself, which I think makes for a more dynamic and less boring book.
So I found this book a return to what made L.E. Modesitt great. A wonderful heroine who learns from doing, no long boring lectures on how her views are wrong, and lots of battle scenes, both physical, magical, financial and emotional. The romance between Mykella and her former guard turned general is full of stops and starts, and no one actually admits that the other is important to them until far too close to the end of the book, but their closeness grows gradually and while I hoped for some more romantic-type scenes, most readers of fantasy probably won't miss them.
I really would recommend this book to fans of the old L.E. Modesitt and fantasy readers alike. It's exciting and full of action, along with more static scenes of Mykella trying to learn to wield her magic and take care of her country and rebuild it, both morally and in infrastructure and soldiers, to make it the kind of place it was always meant to be. If this is how L.E. Modesitt Jr. is returning to writing, I am all for it, and hope to read less lecturing and more learning on their own for his future heroes and heroines. Highly recommended.