by: Elizabeth Moon
Ballantine Books New York, NY 2013
In 1988 Elizabeth Moon published the first book in the trilogy that would become Deed of the Paksenarrion novels. This much loved trilogy has stayed in print ever since. Moon went on to write epic space operas, with a hard science base. She won a Nebula award for her beautiful fiction novel, The Speed of Darkness, exploring the world of autism. Then in 2010 she returned to the world of Paksenarrion to begin the series Paladin’s Legacy.
This book is the fourth in the series and the fifth is scheduled to be published early next year. This series takes the scope of the Pasenarrion story and expands it beyond Russian proportions. The readers find themselves intimately involved in at least three kingdoms, two duchy’s and four races. Additionally there are Dragons and Tree people, the true elders of the world, who are ultimately beyond human comprehension. There is the Singer, Deity of the elves, Falk and Gird the Gods of the realm who all seem very involved with the story, and an older pantheon of Gods that gets referenced from time to time.
As you can imagine, there is no way an author can fully welcome a new reader into such a complex scenario this far into the story. Elizabeth Moon does have a lovely way of reminding, or referencing, the histories of past books without the reader feeling like they are reading an introductory prologue. The story doesn’t ever stop for explanation, which may be frustrating, but generally underlines the delays in communications expected given the scope of the theater. Her convention of beginning each chapter with the location, time if it’s relevant, and realm of interest helps immeasurably in orienting us as the story drifts from realm to realm.
These are books filled with explorations of tactics, strategies and logistics. The world is martial and generally governed by the monarchies and the orders of Gird and Falk. There is a strong guild system. Magic is accepted and welcomed coming out of the Paladins, as blessed by the order. It is expected from the elves and other non-human creatures. But in humankind magic has often lead to great evil.
At this turn of the story it would seem that in spite of all efforts to eliminate bloodlines of ancient magelords, magic is returning to the human realm. One of the Dukes, in an earlier story, comes into her magic but as she is already made a knight of Falk there can be no question as to her worthiness. Magic appearing in the royal house, however, threatens the stability of the realm. In the country towns there is dissension as the Marshals of Gird disagree about letting the children exhibiting signs of magic live.
As a book “in the middle” there is not much resolution in the story line. Still, the characters and the overarching themes continue to keep me engaged in the world. I have a fondness for many of the characters, having read about them in earlier works. Moon continues to allow these characters to grow and change as they are presented with new and unforeseen challenges.
If you have read the original trilogy and love the world, you will also love these books. If you loved Paks, you may find yourself disappointed as she is no longer the center of the story line. If you are fond of epic tales of war and politics and the human (and sometimes not so human) response to being thrust into “interesting times” Moon will be a delight to read.