Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review - The Deed of Paksenarrion


When I look back over 2011, thinking of the books I read, I have to say I discovered Elizabeth Moon this year.  I read so many of her books all at once that they are jumbled in my head, creating a shadow of the character of the author... which was, actually, my goal. I wanted to know who she is.

It started because I follow Robin McKinley's "Days in the Life of", which typically crack me up. The way she lets thoughts meander with the footnotes strikes a deep cord with me. I live to meander. Contrarily, Moon seems to have a plan that she follows through on. Her blog posts and comments are so tidy while also being deliciously complicated.

"Complicated" - describing Moon and her writing - is a sad shadow of the inner workings... like saying a clock face is "complicated" does not reflect the gears underneath that make it work. I didn't know this last March 22 when Kings of the North was published. All I knew is that Oath of Fealty came before, so I downloaded the two of them on my Nook. A few minutes of research suggested that this new 5-book series follows where Paksenarrion left off years ago.  So... logically...

...I read a LOT of Moon's books this year!!  Starting with The Deed of Paksenarrion.

I did not know about Goodreads back in March or book blogs... Paksenarrion sounded like a place to me, not a person, certainly not a totally awesome girl. It took me a while to figure out that this 600,000 word volume contained  Sheepfarmer's DaughterDivided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold - all in one.  I requested it from the (wonderful) public library.  I was in a long line of requests, so as soon as I received the book, I knew I had 3 weeks. I dove in head first.

The Deed of Paksenarrion
The Deed of Paksenarrionby Elizabeth Moon
1040 pgs
Published 2/1/92 by Baen

Premise: Ganked from Amazon:
Ignoring her father's plans for her, Paksenarrion leaves her family and sets off for the army, where her heroic restoration of a lost ruler to his throne will make her a legend.

Hints more than Spoilers:

My first unforgettable impression was that Moon had a crazy-realistic grasp of what life would feel like as a pawn in a military troop. Paks is a stubborn, passionate, true-to-herself sort of person - she is so great! But she doesn't know these people over her at all, she doesn't know their character or goals or why they are marching over a mountain pass, she is just doing the best she can from where she is. From her point of view the mud is mucky, the fights in the yard hurt, the stew tastes delicious, and she makes some good friends and enemies. It was so easy to picture myself in her place.

Naturally I found Moon's bio to see where she got this perspective from. The Marines. That explained a lot to me, why the perspective was so realistic, how she dove into so many daily details. I was learning how Moon could hold an entire story of epic proportions altogether.

Paks grows and adapts. I was thrilled when she left the comfort of the familiar over inner convictions. She takes what help she can get, but her Elfen help is no help at all, which is again, so true to reality and it thrilled me with the danger. 

There are elves and counter-elves who are dangerous because of how long they live and how much they know. There's an intricate belief system with churches that have fighting platforms to train local militia. There are dwarves, dragons, ogres... and if I say anything at all I feel like I'll prove my ignorance to hard-core followers of Paks' world, but as new fan, it is all so intricate and fun and dangerous.

So, Paks tangles with the elves and ignorantly passes on a message to opposing religious leaders, which gets me to my favorite part of the story, the Kuagan. They are so different, a complete freshly created religion surrounding nature. The followers of Gird make more sense sort of like modern churches who follow someone's specific teaching to follow God, if that makes sense, but the Kuagan are so different even when they're recognized as following the same God. I was immediately intrigued with the quiet wood in the middle of town, where entering the first line of trees blocks out all other sound. (And not just b/c I'm an Oregonian. Ha.)

Just when things were bad enough (or rather, almost looking up), Paks loses her own grip on reality. I don't know about anyone else, but this was so realistic for me. At the time I blamed the size of the volume and living more in Paks world than mine. Maybe so.  But Moon took me right through insanity and then out the other side. When Paks found healing, I was sobbing.


I wouldn't say you have to read The Deed of Paksenarrion before the current books, the new series stands by itself and Paks is actually a smaller character in 'em. But I would say that this is one of those books for the library, one of those must-haves, one to reread.

Elizabeth Moon
Elizabeth Moon

I'm still a smidge intimidated by how intricate and complicated Moon's imagination is - just as a reader, never mind a wannabe writer. Her blog entry today is a great example of how she literally knows everyone in the story and is interconnecting everything on purpose. How does she do that?!  Never mind, I'm just grateful she does. 
Eche las ganas, EMoon!!

My Rating:  5.25  - Loved it! Must own it!!

PS - I'll be drawing the winner of the Book Lover's Giveaway shortly!!