The Order is one of the best fantasy books I've read, and I've read quite a few. The world-building shines in its detailed and realistic presentation of an imaginary world that contains characters, dialogue, and situations that allow the reader to enter the world in the fullest sense. In addition, Donaubaur presents perhaps the best account and conception of magic I've ever run across and now ranks (in my personal high epic fantasy universe) with Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, N.K. Jemisin, Emma Bull, and Kate Elliot. (I have another pantheon of YA fantasy, but that is for another time.)
Plot: The book opens with Eryn at fifteen as an apprentice to her father as a healer, but the pair must always hide their magical ability. When Eryn seeks revenge against a young man who tried to take her by force, disregarding her father's teaching, the lesson is a hard one. After her father's death, Eryn continues for twelve years as a healer until a head injury reveals her magic abilities, and she is taken prisoner by the king's forces and brought before the Order of Magicians. Recognizing her extraordinary magical strength, the Order harness Eryn's magical abilities and force her to train as a warrior, which is antithetical to all of her beliefs.
The characters are all well-developed and interesting, with secondary characters playing important roles in Eryn's life and in the development of the narrative. (My favorite is Vern, the adolescent son of her combat trainer. The relationship between young Vern and Eryn is one of the greatest strengths of the novel.)
The pace is perfect, the dialogue is to-the-point and often amusing, and the narrative is so engrossing, I didn't want the book ever to end.
The Order is a long book, which is true of all my favorite epic fantasy, but unlike many of my other favorites, it has no truly evil villain and no war (at least so far--there are more books to come). What it does, instead, is examine human flaws and motivation and how these human attributes and characteristics can cause conflict, misunderstandings, misguided behaviors, and unexpected problems. The novel deals less with the good versus evil concept than is typical in high fantasy, but is deeply concerned with moral issues and choices. And, oh, the tension and suspense that can arise from these situations that derive from personal flaws and behavior, character growth and choices, and the restraints and/or benefits of tradition!
I truly loved this book and can't wait for more. Highly Recommended!
Epic Fantasy. Aug. 2, 2015. Print version: 913 pages.