Declared her brother's heir or Lordan, and thus legally male, not bound by the normal rules for Highborn women, Jame seems to have found herself, at last, a place in her society by this fourth book in P.C. Hodgell's series. There's one catch; tradition says that the Knorth Lordan must attend Tentir, the Kencyr military college, and train to be a randon officer. At Tentir, her brother cannot protect her, and unfortunate "accidents" could so easily happen—especially since the rotating command of the college has fallen, this year, to her family's enemies, the Caineron. This book, the first of three to cover Jame's year at military school, is thus rather a departure; self-reliant, independent loner Jame must learn to work with others — to command, not just do. It's a struggle. Once again, Hodgell sets her heroine a challenge where she must change and learn in order to survive. It would be so easy to have Jame just remain the same, as such a strongly-drawn character, and have the world bend around her, but that's not what Hodgell does. There are, after all, worse times and greater challenges to come, and only through growth and flexibility will Jame be able to withstand and triumph. This one comes from an author in a much happier place in her life, and it shows; Rathorn reads much more like God Stalk, the first in the series, than it does the intervening, drearier installments. It's a joy to read, and a pleasure to consume. If it has a flaw, I think it is that it's just a touch less imaginative than the previous volumes; not, overall, lacking in such, except by comparison to those, in which ideas fairly pop off every page. Perhaps it's the fairly static setting; much of it happens at the college, or at locations we've visited before, although Jame does manage to hare off into the wilderness a few times. Perhaps in contrast to the masculine role she's adopted, femininity and domesticity are among the challenges Jame encounters at Tentir. Formerly a very asexual heroine, sexual desire arrives unexpectedly and confusingly for Jame, and it's not something she's very prepared for, especially the direction that her newfound desires appear to be leading her. I like the way Jame is growing here, and I want more; with two more volumes to come covering the Tentir year, I can't wait.
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