December 05, 2006

The Deed of Paksenarrion

A trilogy that has been mildly recommended to me by several people over many years is Elizabeth Moon's "The Deed of Paksenarrion", so I finally bought it from Amazon in omnibus format and plowed through it over the past month. Overall, it was really solid.

The series follows a peasant girl named Paksenarrion who runs off to join a mercenary company to escape an arranged marriage. She's tough and has some experience and knowledge from brothers who are veterans, so it isn't exactly a lark. The first novel is all about her adventures in this mercenary company, and the attention to detail and the soldier's life was reminiscent of Harry's Turtledove's Krispos/Videssos series that I reviewed a while back or some of Glen Cook's Black Company series, though not as gripping as the first few books of that series.

By the end of the first novel, she is starting to outgrow the mercenary company, and she is getting hints that she is destined for something more, so she sort of goes off to pursue that in the second book, to see what she should become. She is a good fighter with a very pure heart and so she naturally gravitates to the role of a paladin. In this world, paladins have powers bestowed by a group of demi-god like ancestors who are part legend, part real, the lower part of a hierarchy of good vs evil deities.

In the last book, she more or less completes her journey to becoming a paladin and pursues various quests (or a single quest with various parts) that she feels compelled by her patron gods to undertake. Like most good stories, this one has quite a few unexpected twists, most of which I'm sure appear here and there in the fantasy trilogy genre. Paksenarrion (Paks) is a fun character to follow around. I've always enjoyed role-playing paladins and the like in my younger days, and it is neat to see one wholly envisioned here.

There is a scene (usually extended to several pages, at least) in each of the three novels in which Paks endures some horrible thing, whether it is a beating, imprisonment or torture (which goes in about three times longer than I thought was necessary in the last book) or something like it. The sequence of terrible events follows Paks around for quite a long while in the second book, but that was a little easier to swallow. I was relieved, though, when the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was finally visible.

One thing Moon does *not* do is go into a whole lot of detail about her world. Unlike most Tolkien-esque fantasy, the map provided here is rudimentary and more or less useless. Oh, there are elves, dwarves, orcs, gnomes, mages, druids, etc. just like any D&D inspired novel, (this is definitely a big step-up in quality from that), but Moon doesn't usually dwell on them or the landscape. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the 2nd book involves Paks getting stuck following an arrogant, ne'er-do-well half-elf around, who is decidedly *not* an elf of the Tolkien style. They are just props for the story about Paks and the few people around her or important in her life at any given time.

This is also not some kind of romance. In fact, I'd say Paks is an interesting female character in that she is completely asexual, which is a real departure for a genre geared toward attracting teenage boys and their hormones. What should attract the kids in this case is a solid fantasy story. It doesn't put Moon in my top five or even top ten authors, but she's in the next tier.

Posted by Observer at December 5, 2006 09:21 PM

Comments on entries can only be made in pop-up windows while those entries are still on the main index page. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes, but this blocks about 99.99% of the spam the blog receives.

Have you read Louis McMaster Bujold's "Vorkosigan" saga? I get the feelining you'd enjoy it.

Posted by: Andrew on December 7, 2006 11:05 PM

I've read and reviewed the first few, see the sidebar. More in the future. For me, they're about the same level as Elizabeth Moon, but I know others like Bujold more than I do.

Posted by: Observer on December 8, 2006 07:20 AM