Monday, September 18, 2023

Book Re-Report

I'd read Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksennarion trilogy before, back when I was still living in Tennessee. Call it most of twenty years ago. I remember really enjoying the first book, thinking the second was okay, and kinda getting lost in the third.

I figured I'd give it another whirl and see how well it aged, and was pleasantly surprised.

The three books follow the same main character, but have very different vibes. Reading them straight through, however (something I didn't do the first time around) makes for a much more satisfyingly continuous storyline.

In the first book, Sheepfarmer's Daughter, our protagonist runs off to find fame and fortune in a medieval-esque mercenary company. There's a typical MilSF-style basic training experience that introduces us to the world and its inhabitants.

It's definitely a swords-and-sorcery world that would be familiar to any fantasy RPG player, but our point of view character, Paksennarion, is a Level 1 spear-toter (well, sword-toter, technically) three ranks back in the second file from the left. Magic is rare and expensive and paladins are shining figures on horses maybe glimpsed in onesy-twosies, from a distance, during important battles.

But Paks gets some chances to shine and complete an important mission that brings her to the attention of the duke that commands her legion of mercs.

Eventually she becomes a trusted veteran and outgrows her role in the company, setting off to learn more skills, perhaps to come back to the company as an officer or squire.

If the first book is a grunt's-eye view of swords and sorcery battlefields, the second book, Divided Allegiance, is a straight up Dungeons & Dragons adventure, with Paks meeting friends and foes and killing orcs in a dungeon and coming to the aid of a village beleaguered by bandits in the forest that's come under an Inexplicable Shadow of Evil.

Having overcome that and gotten up to say, Level Three or Four, Paksennarion heads off to Paladin U., a sort of Holy Hogwarts of swordfighting and divine warfighting for the cause of Good.

As a baby paladin, Paks accompanies a bunch of higher level characters on a quest that ends up with Paks taking a possibly career ending setback.

The process of healing that damage segues us into the third book, Oath of Gold, where now a fully-fledged Paks the Paladin sets off on her ultimate quest, to find the True King and return him to his Rightful Throne.

I have to say that on re-read, it's really a good story and quite fun, and I owe the book an apology.

Fortunately the three books are available in an omnibus volume, which makes for a much easier read-through and I think that helps it immensely.