fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Elizabeth Moon The Deed of Paksenarrion 1. Sheepfarmer's Daughter audioSheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon

Brilliance Audio has recently been putting together some fine productions of many classic fantasy novels that deserve to be heard and I, as a reader, couldn’t be happier. I don’t have much free time these days, and most of my reading is now done by audio, so I was thrilled to find that I could finally listen to The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. The first novel, Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, has just been released, and the rest are following quickly.  (By the way, if audiobooks are out of your budget, ask your public library to order them — my library has ordered several that I’ve requested with their online form.)

I enjoyed this story about Paksenarrion (Paks) who, to avoid an arranged marriage to a farmer, runs away to join a mercenary force. It’s not that she knows there’s a future Mr. Right out there, or even that she knows there’s some great evil in the land to be vanquished, but rather that she just isn’t interested in being married or being a farmer’s wife. Of course, life as a mercenary isn’t exactly what she expected, but Paks is honest, competent, and hard-working, so she does pretty well at her new job and we can easily foresee that she’s developing into a future leader.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsI had no trouble believing in any of Moon’s characters or their relationships with each other. It didn’t take long for me to find myself rooting and caring for Paks and I was really affected when some of her friends and allies were injured or killed.

Elizabeth Moon’s military experience is evident and she writes believably about the daily minutiae of being a soldier. There’s more time spent marching, eating, waiting, exercising, and being stuck in the mud than fighting. This is very realistic, I’m sure, but it makes the novel move rather slowly at times, and gives it a didactic flavor. I think that readers who haven’t read as many coming-of-age-in-an-army stories as I have will not be so impatient.

Jennifer Van Dyck was a terrific reader with a pleasant voice which effectively portrayed both men and women. There were times when I didn’t care for the over-eager wide-eyed country girl voice that she used for Paks (couldn’t a few of those Yes, Sirs been a little less enthusiastic?), but it’s hard to tell if that was her interpretation or the author’s intent. Overall, Ms. Van Dyck is a reader I’ll be watching for in the future, and Paksenarrion, the sheepfarmer’s daughter, is a heroine whose story I’m looking forward to hearing.

~Kat Hooper


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy novel reviews Elizabeth Moon: The Deed of PaksenarrionTHE DEED OF PAKSENARRION by Elizabeth Moon

A work of grand scope, Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion features the heroic journey of a girl named Paksenarrion — from sheepfarmer’s daughter to paladin of the light. Though this work is frequently called an heir to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, there are a few differences I’d like to point out. While these are both epic journeys, both in size and scale, Moon’s is the journey of a single hero rather than a group, and is character-driven, rather than being about the world and the journey to return the One Ring, which drives the action in LOTR.

Secondly, The Deed of Paksenarrion is not primarily a work of high fantasy. If anything, it’s military fantasy. Moon served in the Marine Corps, and that military training shows. There are mythical and fantastical creatures, both good and bad, but they serve a secondary purpose and do not populate the world to the degree that is found in Middle Earth. That said, I’m still trying to figure out how to turn the Kuakgan into a Dungeons & Dragons class so I can play one if I ever do another campaign.

Moon is a gifted writer. In less masterful hands, this story would have been nothing more than a formulaic Hero’s Journey trope grafted onto a rebellious teenage girl in a coming-of-age story, but Paks lives and breathes on the page. She’s a strong, stoic female discovering a calling. (My male friends find her unrealistic or nonsexual, but none of my female friends do). You know that Paks won’t die, but some of the situations she gets into are very stressful nonetheless. There are scenes in The Deed of Paksenarrion that are almost physically painful to read. Moon does not shy away from the harsher aspects of life for a female soldier, or about the evils she must fight.

The plotting of the story is not surprising, given that it is a heroic epic. At times the story drags, especially with the plethora of unimportant details in the beginning, but Moon’s writing gets stronger as the story progresses. The amount of detail about her world can be a bit overwhelming (you will learn a lot about life in military units), but it serves to underline the main character’s transformation from farmer to paladin.

Also, there is a little too much drawing on Dungeons & Dragons cosmology and character creation for Moon to be taking credit for the whole world she has written. If you have played D & D, you’ll notice what she has done, but if you haven’t, you won’t be lost. According to an apocryphal email exchange with the author, the inspiration for the series arose out of her disgust with how people were playing paladins in the Dungeons & Dragons setting. Since she was not a gamer, she wrote these books to explain how they should be played.

Elizabeth Moon is definitely finding her voice as an author here, and it’s a very strong voice.

~Ruth Arnell

The Deed of Paksenarrion — (1988-2014) Author’s Description:  Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter, headstrong daughter of a sheep farmer on the north edge of the kingdom, dreams of being a hero out of legend, of fame and magic swords and great deeds. When her father tells her she must marry the neighbor’s son, she runs away from home to join the mercenary company her cousin told her about. But military life and warfare aren’t anything like her daydreams… yet she holds to both her duty and her dreams. In the end, she pays the price that heroism demands and becomes the paladin who saves a kingdom… but the journey is longer and darker than she ever imagined. She has to confront and overcome her strengths as well as her weaknesses… and her triumph redeems more than herself.

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Paladin’s Legacy

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.