In her 1984 best seller, The Weaker Vessel, Fraser contrasted the low status of women in 17th-century England with their actual strengths and achievements; here, she's not quite as dramatic, but still intriguing as she ranges throughout world history for examples of women who ruled nations and armies. Fraser's 12th book gets off to a somewhat slow and cautious start with groundwork material about mythic traditions, war goddesses, Amazons, matriarchal societies, and the semilegendary figure of Boadicea, the British queen who led armed resistance against the occupying Romans in A.D. 60. Pace and interest quicken with accounts of better-documented female rulers, including Elizabeth I, Isabella, Catherine the Great, and Golda Melt, and women leaders who actually took part in battle--among them, Queen Jinga of Angola and the Rani of Jhansi. Some of Fraser's points: Warrior Queens create identifications with mythic female figures in order to gain legitimacy; their sex can be advantage or impediment, but never irrelevant; they win greater loyalty from their troops than male rulers can; the extremely potent (though antifeminist) role of ""honorary man"" may play best when (as in the Thatcher government) no other women are admitted to the precincts of power. Lively, readable history with new insights into some familiar figures and provocative introductions to national heroines little known in the West.