As most of you know, I've been a fan of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Recluce saga since the early 90s. Though I've enjoyed every installment, my favorites remain Fall of Angels (Canada, USA, Europe) and The Chaos Balance (Canada, USA, Europe). Both deal with the mythology of Recluce, and the blend of fantasy and science fiction found in these two novels always scratched my itch. If you have never read anything by Modesitt, you might want to begin with these two Recluce books. They might be a bit easier to get into than the others.

Anyway, I was quite excited when I learned that the author would write another installment set in the far past of Recluce. Unfortunately, my reading schedule did not permit me to reread Fall of Angels and The Chaos Balance. Yet that did not take anything away from the overall reading experience, other than perhaps missing a few details and nuances.

Here's the blurb:

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.

The worldbuilding is an interesting aspect, for it allows readers to discover how Saryn's involvement in protecting the regency culminated in drastic changes throughout Lornth, shaping that country into what it will become in later years. And just as Nylan changed the face of Candar when he faced the might of Cyador, Saryn's coming down from Tower Black and the Roof of the World will echo down the centuries.

The characterization would probably have benefited from more POV characters. Saryn, regardless of the fact that she is a three-dimensional character, is a bit too aloof to carry the weight of this story. Not that she isn't an interesting character in her own right, and Saryn does stay true to herself, but witnessing the events unfold through the eyes of other characters might have given Arms-Commander more emotional impact.

The pace was also an issue at times. I feel that too much "air time" was given to the various confrontations with the recalcitrant lord-holders. A number of those clashes could have taken place behind the scenes, which would have sped up the rhythm of the novel.

Feminism and the emancipation of women continue to be two very important themes, and you find them underlying every facet of the narrative. The dedication on the first page reads:

For all the women cursed as tyrants in getting the job done when their male
counterparts are only considered tough

Still, the pace is a minor issue that didn't diminish my reading pleasure. All in all, Arms-Commander is another solid effort by Modesitt, one that should please long-time fans. Here's to hoping that we'll have the opportunity to read more about the Angels and how their coming changed the world forever.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

3 commentaires:

Bilsborough said...

SHOCKER! Another meaningless 7.something-out-of-10 verdict.

Anonymous said...

More dyke fiction for the English to read. How many chapters are about lesbos munching each others carpet?

Anonymous said...

This is the type of shit that gives sci fi and fantasy such a bad name to the general public.