L. E. Modesitt Jr.
First Line: In the late afternoon on the Roof of the World, the guards stood silent on the practice ground, their eyes fixed on the blackness rising just above the western horizon as Istril stepped out of the main door of Tower Black and crossed the causeway.
As I mentioned when I first wrote about reading Arms-Commander this is my first Recluce novel since I read The Magic of Recluce some time after having plowed through the first couple of Wheel of Time novels. I had forgotten precisely how odd the chronology of the series is where the first novel written is, in essence, is the penultimate tale in the series with the fifth novel written The Death of Chaos is actually the conclusion of the saga at large. Needless to see for someone used a distinct beginning to end chronology in his fantasy Modesitt stands amongst a bare handful of fantasy authors whose series’ internal chronology leave me scratching my head in confusion (Katerine Kerr’s Deverry novels, and Steven Brust’s Draegaran novels, being two of the other that I struggle a bit with). You read it hear first folks, non-linear story-telling confuses the hell out of me.
Despite my confusion as to the chronology of the Saga of Recluce the blurb for Arms-Commander had me a bit excited:
Arms-Commander takes place ten years after the end of The Chaos Balance and tells the story of the legendary Saryn. The keep of Westwind, in the cold mountainous heights called the Roof of the World, is facing attack by the adjoining land of Gallos. Arthanos, son and heir to the ailing Prefect of Gallos, wishes to destroy Westwind because the idea of a land where women rule is total anathema to him.
Saryn, Arms-Commander of Westwind, is dispatched to a neighboring land, Lornth, to seek support against the Gallosians. In the background, the trading council of Suthya is secretly and informally allied with Gallos against Westwind and begins to bribe lord-holders in Lornth to foment rebellion and civil war. They hope to create such turmoil in Lornth that the weakened land will fall to Suthya. But Zeldyan, regent of Lornth, has problems in her family. To secure Zeldyan’s aid, Saryn must pledge her personal support—and any Westwind guard forces she can raise—to the defense of Zeldyan and her son. The fate of four lands, including Westwind, rests on Saryn’s actions.
There are a number of points that jumped out at me in that little blurb, particularly the role of gender politics in the novel (not something every fantasy novel explores) and the hint of a blend of military action and politics. Unfortunately while the novel certainly succeeds in delivering the latter it is on the former that I’m less certain.