Arms-Commander is a return to historical Candar and the SAGA OF RECLUCE by L.E. Modesitt Jr. This book follows in the wake of Chaos Balance and Fall of Angels as continued explanation of how the female-run and empowered part of the continent of Candar came to be. For long term fans of the series, this is really interesting stuff to fill in some of the blanks.
Saryn, a decidedly cardboard character from the earlier series, is the main character and heroine of Arms-Commander. L.E. Modesitt Jr. would probably have us refer to her as a hero in a gender-neutral tone that is more in keeping with the story. She’s talented in the magic that is the basis of the much of the story, but she doesn’t suffer from the chronic side-effects of killing people. That makes her extremely lethal in combat, which L.E. Modesitt Jr. further supports throughout the book with various statements about her history and heritage. I don’t like her at all, but that’s not important to appreciate the story.
Saryn was a part of the founding of Westwind, the first bastion of feminism on Candar. She was a ships pilot on the spaceship that brought them to the world the story is set in. Her only really strong characteristics are obedience to authority and her relative indifference to men. She’s not a lesbian, just seemingly indifferent to men as anything other than competition. Her role as the combat leader and second in command to Ryba, the Tyrant of Westwind, makes her gradual disenchantment with how things are done more interesting. She’s one of the in crowd who listens to her doubts.
Saryn eventually leads a group of Westwind female fighters into a country that is threatened by a return of overwhelming male dominance. She leads this small force to great victories and follows the normal role of a Modisitt/Recluce-series hero, except that her basic skill set is war. That’s a big change and makes her a bit different because she isn’t so worried about her O.C.D. habits impacting her ability to create world-class products.
I really enjoyed Arms-Commander because I loved L.E. Modesitt Jr.‘s return to this time in the story. His normal pattern of story-telling is fairly obvious, but it’s ok because it is what you expect. The story moves along well and there are many gaps in the history that are adequately filled. On the whole, Arms-Commander is another welcome installment to the SAGA OF RECLUCE.