L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Amazon.com product description:
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.The latest of the Recluse saga novels, but set earlier in time. And, I have no real idea of the chronolgy for this series any more. I do know that this book follows The Fall Of Angels, but beyond that, I don't know. It's been a while since I read the Recluse books.
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.
L.E. Modesitt Jr. is an author who likes making the reader think. In the Recluse books he turns conventional stereotypes upsidedown, then destroys them. The main one being the assumption that white is good and black is evil. Here, it seems that black is more good than white, but neither is exactly "good". There's plenty of examples of black (or order) magic being used to evil purposes in the series.
He's also one of those authors who's equally good at science fiction and fantasy. A fair number of his earlier science fiction novels are among my favorites. All of them are thought-provoking (as is, I'm discovering, his blog). Arms Commander is no exception. There's certainly no glorious war, although there is plenty of fighting, rebellion and war. Instead, we see plenty of the destructive side of the activity, along with the efforts of rebuilding.
The characters, particularly Saryn are some of the most profound I've seen in fantasy novels, something I liked, as it added more depth to the story and the characters. They do have their flaws, but, at least some of them are aware of it. Others though, seem to fit the stereotyped stupid male category (something Modesitt has used in quite a few of the novels. The Spell Song Cycle comes to mind).
Overall, I liked Arms Commander, although I did feel somewhat lost. This is definitely a book that builds on knowledge of the previous book: The Fall Of Angels. It's possible to read it and enjoy it without that, but I think it would have helped. It's definitely been a few years since I read any of the other books and I found myself struggling to remember characters and events.
Guess I'm going to have to re-read the other books in the series.