"A mage who's also a healer. That's rare."
"And a healer who's also a mage. I've never heard of that."
With those three lines, you've now read at least a dozen pages of The Mage Fire War. It's an exchange that was repeated ad nauseam in the book before this, and is repeated many, many more times here. Technically, one could argue that for every new character encountered in the book, this is new information. But one element of good writing is presenting things in a way that's interesting to the reader. Otherwise, what you have is a logbook. We don't need a character to explain how many coppers in a silver every time they buy something; once is enough. In this book and its predecessor, I found myself actually shouting at the page, "We got it. Let it go!" Modesitt is a better author than this.
And that, actually, is the explanation that finally came to me in the shower one morning: Modesitt is a better author than this; maybe this isn't Modesitt. Now, I'm not one for conspiracy theories. I don't really believe that someone else is ghost writing Modesitt's books. But it's a pretty fair explanation of what's here - a tone much like Modesitt's usual, but without almost any of the storytelling skill we're used to. Instead, it's endless, ad nauseam repetition of petty details.
Maybe Modesitt is trying something out. Maybe he thought that, for one sub-series, a day-by-day logbook of events would be interesting. It's not, and it should have been obvious after (or before) one book.
That's not to say there aren't interesting elements here; there are, and the sub-series itself contains a good story. But between the last book and this one, there's material for maybe 2/3 of a book instead of this bloated, stultifying, indigestible mass. That sounds harsh. But this book really is dull - not because of concept or subject matter, but because it's just so darned repetitive.
Maybe I made a mistake by reading the book over only a few weeks. Maybe if I put it down for a month between chapters, each repetition of a basic concept would have felt fresh. I don't think so.
The long and the short of it is that this book is only for true Modesitt completists, and perhaps not even for them.
Received gratis in exchange for an honest review.