Wednesday, May 11, 2011

REVIEW: The Deed of Paksennarian

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

Six hundred thousand words… Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold all in one volume.

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter was good.  The military training was so believably realistic, so detailed.  And Paks was one person in a large company.  Just like one person in a large group would have a limited view of things, Paks saw a little and understood very little of the big picture, but thought intelligently regarding what she could see.  I loved the way she learned obedience and endurance and especially how to work as a team-member vs. solo.  It was GOOD.

Divided Allegiance was heart-wrenching.  Paks learned to separate herself from the larger team, to make decisions consistent with her own heart, admitting no absolute knowledge of ultimate right or wrong.  I love, love, love, love, love that…. No one knows the entire big picture, but everyone must answer for their own actions and decisions.  This was so well walked out.  When Paks was captured and the evil attacked her, even the representative Good was only partially wise, which is also REAL.  The Gird followers helped her some, but didn’t know how to help her completely.

The Oath of Gold – the name comes from a poem consistent through all the books, but the poem wasn’t especially memorable to me or meaningful.  When Paks found healing with the Kuakgan, Master Oakhollow, I cried.  It was so perfect, so exactly representative of deep hurt being healed, or a scar on the soul that is strengthened like a break, stronger than before.  I wish I would’ve read that when I was young… I wish I could have experienced the anguish and healing Paks went through when I was still young and unhurt and scared of facing pain and badness.  Although near the end when Paks was tortured… I don’t know that I would recommend that scene to ANYONE, especially my innocent self.

For the parts I didn't like... I would say it is a saga = long, long, long. I have never known a person (Paks) so completely uninterested in romantic relationships…. There were none!  And I was surprised at the depth of character from Paks – she lived, made decisions and changed all at the level of action.  Things happened, she adjusted and adapted.  I missed inner conflicts.

What did I like?  I really enjoyed getting to know so many characters that were so three-dimensional.  The Duke is a great example because Paks learned to respect him as a private in his army first and his character grew as her knowledge of him grew.  Paks’ friends were complete as they came and went in her life.  The village of Brewersbridge was so detailed, I know it.  Even the elves, who were so proud, had fault.  They had the wisdom of the years, but they weren’t all-knowing.  I also enjoyed the High Lord, the Singer… the different ways of expressing ultimate diety and the question as to whether the same God had different names to different people.  The pantheon of diety was entirely believable as correct for the era of minor kingdoms and mercenary groups, etc.

Gird was an historical figure, also well-rounded out with strengths and weaknesses, but the followers of that sect were very forward in their attempts to convert others.  I thought it odd that they accepted the different followers, recognizing the limits of their own and yet remained so insistent on deciding to swear allegiance.  I found it a little contradictory and irritating.  When Paks was called by more than one god, which is also interesting, meaning the pantheon was real vs. perceived, she stepped into the only reasonable response to such a situation… a Paleden of the High Lord.  I liked the way I felt I would have responded the same.  Speaking of which, though, the awe and specialty of the Kuakgan was really cool.

The part where I cried… Paks visited Oakhollow and he was quizzing her on her motives and intents and she struggled to express how she felt, surprised when he misunderstood.  Quoted from the book...

“In the grove was silence.  Sunlight filtered through the green leaves. As before, she could hear nothing of the village, close as it was.  A bird sang neaby, three rising notes, over and over.  Paks stopped to listen; her trembling stilled.  Something rustled in the bushes off to her left, and panic rose in her throat.  When a brown rabbit hopped onto the path, she almost sobbed in relief.

She went on.  Far over her heard leaves rustled in the light wind, but it was quiet below.  Under one tree she heart a throbbing hum, and looked up to see a haze of bees busy at the tiny yellow flowers.  At last she heard the remembered chuckling of the Kuakgan’s fountain, and came into the sunny glade before his dwelling.  It was the same as on her first visit.  The low gray bark-roofed house lay shuttered and still.  Nothing moved but the water, leaping and laughing in the sunlight over a stone basin.

Paks stood a moment in the sunlight, watching that water.  She thought of what she’d told the soldier, and how the lie had felt like truth when she told it.  But there was no help for her, not this time.  The Kuakgan had nothing to do with what she had lost.  Kuakkgani didn’t like warriors anyway.  Still – she had to stay, at least until night.  She could not go back to the village.  Maybe she could sneak through the grove and escape to the open country beyond.  Paks sighed.  She was so tired of running, tired of hiding from those who’d known her.  Yet she could not face them.  Maken an end, she thought.
She slid out of the pack straps, and dug into the pack for her pouch of coins, the reserved the Marshal-General had given her.  To it she added the coppers and two silvers from her belt-pouch.  A tidy pile.  Enough to live on for a month, if she were frugal; enough for one good feast, otherwise.  Her mouth twisted.  She scooped up the whole pile and dumped it in the offering basin; the clash and ring of it was loud and discordant.  She looked in her pack for anything else of value.  Nothing but her winter cloak, and extra shirt, spare boot-thongs – no – there was the ring Duke Phelan had given her the day he left Fin Panir.  ‘Send this, or bring it, if you need me,’ he’d said.  Paks stared at it.  She didn’t want it found on her when she – She pushed the thought aside and tossed the ring onto the heap of coins.  She looked at her pack and decided to leave that too.  The Kuakgan would find someone who needed a cloak and shirt.  She piled the pack on top of the money, and turned away, wondering where she could hide until nightfall.  Perhaps she should start through the grove now.

Across the clearing, at one end of the gray house, the Kuakgan stood watching her, his face shadowed by the hood of his robe.  Paks froze; her heart began to race.  His voice came clear across the sound of the fountain, and yet it was not loud.  ‘You wished to speak to the Kuakgan?’

Paks felt cold, but sweat trickled down her ribs.  ‘Sir, I – I came only to make an offering.’

The Kuakgan came closer.  His robe, as she remembered, was dark green, patterned in shades of green and brown with the shapes of leaves and branches.  ‘I see.  Most who make offerings here wish a favor in return. Advice, a potion, a healing – and you want nothing?’ His voice, too, was as she remembered, deep and resonant, full of overtones.  As if, she thought suddenly, he had spent much time with elves.  His eyes, now visible as he came closer, seemed to pierce her with their keen glance.
‘no.  No, sir, I want nothing.’ Paks dropped her gaze, stared at the ground, hoping he would not recognize her, would let her go.

‘Is it, then, an offering of thinks?  Have you received some gift, that you share you boutnty? Not share, I see, for you have given everything – even your last copper.  Can you say why?’

‘No, sir.’ Paks sensed that he had come nearer yet, to the offering basin, still watching her.

‘Hmm.  And yet I heard someone very like you tell a soldier that she wished to speak with me, to ask me a question.  Then I find you in my grove, filling the basin with your last coin, and even your spare shirt – and you have no question.’ He paused.  Paks watched as the shadow of his robe came closer.  She shivered. ‘But I have questions, if you do not.  Look at me!’ At his command, Paks’s head seemed to rise of its own accord.  Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Mmm, yes. You came to me once before for advice, if I recall.  Was my counsel so bad that you refuse it now – Paskenarrion?’

Paks could no speak for the lump in her throat; tears ran down her face.  She tried to turn away, but his strong hand caught her chin and held her facing him.

‘Much, I see, has happened to you since I last saw you.  But I think you are not a liar, whatever you’ve become.  So you will ask your question, Paksenarrion, and take counsel with me once again.’

Paks fought the tightness in her throat and managed to speak.  ‘Sir, I – I can’t.  There’s nothing you can do – just let me go- ‘

‘Nothing I can do?  Best let me judge of that, child. As for going – where would you go, without money or pack?’

‘Anywhere.  East, or south to the hills…it doesn’t matter – ‘

‘There’s enough dead bones in those hills already.  No, you won’t go until you’ve told me what your trouble is.  Come now.’ 

Paks found herself walking behind the Kuakgan to his house, her mind numb.”

My Rating:  Love it!!