In a secondary world where the military organization is not necessarily like American military organization but is not described in detail, what do you consider the preferable treatment of military ranks:
a) private, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, colonel, general
b) rank names that are taken from or based on some familiar-ish culture, such a prefect, centurion, tribune, ligatus, even if the culture is not similar to Rome
c) rank names that are completely made up
d) a mix of some of the above, so that you would not object to made-up words for some ranks, used in combination with “captain” or other actual words for other ranks.
For no actual reason, I have been using (d) in my WIP. I have been getting less enthusiastic about this for some time. I don’t think I actually like it at all. At the end I can easily do a search-and-replace and turn all the familiar titles into created words, but should I?
The problem is, made-up names of ranks sound weird to me, especially combined with character names that are also not drawn from the English language. I feel as though things like “Amat Geras” are harder to read than “Sergeant Geras,” especially if the character is often addressed by title and name.
On the other hand, I didn’t feel this worked badly in The Mountain of Kept Memory, where the rank titles for the Tamaristans were not familiar words. But those titles were not used all that frequently in the story, so readers didn’t have to contend with seeing them all the time.
In Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, the rank names were familiar words. Did anybody feel that made the world seem too familiar?
The problem with asking this question is that the world in that series is basically a straight European medieval world with elves, so it wasn’t meant to feel unfamiliar. Would you feel differently if the society was not as reminiscent of this familiar style of world?
Anybody got a good example of a military fantasy or any secondary world fantasy novel where the rank names are both important and made up, and that actually worked well for you as a reader? If there are some, I can’t think of them — and I’ve kind of been trying — but I am probably missing some great examples.