Wednesday, 16 June 2010
1205 pages, Paperback
Nayuleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ +
Summary from Little and Brown
Paksenarrion wasn’t planning to submit to an unwelcome marriage and a lifetime of poverty, so she left her village with a plan and her grandfather’s sword. And a few weeks later, she was installed as Duke Phelan’s newest recruit in a company of soldiers for hire, her arms training about to begin. But when Paks sees combat, she’s stabbed with an ensorcelled knife and barely survives. Then the near-misses start mounting up, raising questions about this young fighter. Is she attracting evil because she is a danger to them all? Or is there another reason malignant forces seek her life?
Paks will face the spider-minions of the Webmistress Achrya, orcs and the corrupted men who serve blood mage Liart, Master of Torments. She will also earn the gratitude of elves and of her Duke. And through conflict she will learn she has powers of her own and a destiny. To become a gods-chosen Paladin of Gird, and a target for the ultimate torture.
Please don't do what I initially did and think 'oh my' at the seeing the size of the book. Yes, it is rather large. It wasn't something I could slip in my medium-sized handbag. (I could fit it in, but there wasn't room for anything else) However, it is full with all 3 stories involving Paks. I will be talking about the book as a whole rather than the individual stories.
All three stories talk about Paks' amazing life. I say amazing, just because what she goes through is traumatic from the very start. I'm amazed at the strength of character she had to get through that incident, and its consequences. Easy and comfortable are two words that are missing from Paks' life for most of the book. Trouble is attracted to her - at some point in the story this must be taken in the literal sense.
This was what I view as sword and sorcery (although more sword than sorcery most of the time). It centres around Paks (I think you might have gathered that much by now). It tells of how she leaves her home to become a soldier. Not just any soldier. A recruit who lands up in dire straits sooner than anyone else. A recruit who goes on to become a legend.
The story behind the legend is not glamorous. Paks endures a lot of injury, both to her body and her mind. I didn't see how she could be healed - but Elizabeth Moon finds a way out for Paks eventually. Paks fights countless battles, both with a sword, her hands, and her mind. She travels over a mountain, meets elves and orcs. Don't go thinking of a certain famous book involving orcs. I happen to really dislike that particular book. The Deeds of Paksenarrion is in the top ranks of fantasy books for me. It is that good. I feel every swing of Paks' sword. I mentally yell at her for being so thick in some points, and at others I peeked at the pages through my fingers. Her tale isn't a pretty one, but it's incredible. There's magic and fighting. It contains story elements that I've found in Mercede Lackey's Valdemar series, and Tamora Pierce's work too - strength of character, determination, weakness at times, but in the end the protagonist is triumphant, with sacrifice along the way.
I am now hooked by Elizabeth Moon, whose work is lodged in the 'wow' section of authors. I want to re-read Paks' sorrows (there are so many) and her few, but tear producing joys. She isn't perfect, and I love her for being imperfect. She gains believable friends, and unfortunately equally believable enemies. Watching the full story unfold had me going 'Oh!' at several points. The level of detail is high, but all of it is engaging. Barely once (only when it was time for bed and I was tired) did I think 'this is dull'. The battles weren't full of endless gore. Yes, there was some injury - what else do you expect in a war? Also there was strategy, compassion for friends, heart-stopping moments when the enemy did something unexpected, among other instances.
The first book is more about her life as a soldier, how she works her way through the ranks, and the battles she must face. The second book focuses more on the fun part of being a soldier -well, from my view. It involves time outside of a campaign, resting up and training. I love stories like that. Then she moves to the mountains...where an awful lot happens. And as for the third story - there's more magic there, and Paks gets broken. It takes a lot of time and compassion to heal her. She's a stubborn so-and-so and doesn't always realise how much she touches people's hearts, including mine. Her goal of being a paladin seems so far away when she's in the depth of her misery. I'm not spoiling that particular story line, which ends in an unexpected manner.
Paks is the protagonist, but the characterisation of her friends (and enemies) are also strong. I liked how the war focused on the people behind the armour, rather just grand epic battles. There were battles, which were grand, but definitely not dull. Elizabeth explores human nature in all its aspects, the good, the bad, and the inbetween parts. I think every reader can relate to Paks at some point in her adventure. All of us, at one stage or another, had hit low points, and needed a hand or two getting out of them. I had tears in my eyes when Paks found those hands - it was so nice for something to go right in her life.
If you like fantasy, heaps of character development and fun - check out Paks' legend!
Elizabeth Moon can be found on her website here. Yes, I will be hunting down her other work at some point.
If you liked this, do check out Mercedes Lackey's Valedemar series, and all books by Tamora Pierce.