by Elizabeth Moon
Riverdale, NY: Baen Books, 1988.
Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter runs away from home and an unwanted marriage proposal to join the army. She joins with Duke Phelan's company, a mercenary company, promising to fight for two years after training. Beginning with training and continuing as Paks rises through the ranks, we see Paks mature and deal with all manner of challenges from within and outside the company.
Though a fantasy, as evidenced by mention of orcs and elves, the focus on military life ground the story in a reality of its own, though names of towns or people may be unfamiliar. The story is mostly about Paks' coming-of-age, and readers don't really know all the whys and wherefores of the many battle until well into the book when Paks herself is rising in rank. There are hints of even more going on behind the scenes, but nothing spelled out in this first book of a trilogy.