Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book Review 'The Deed of Paksenarrion'

I don't often do book reviews. Well heck, let's be honest here, I've never done a book review, and there's a reason for that. I often think that reviews are generally meaningless. All of them are subjective and if anyone knows anything about people, it's that, "what appeals to one, won't appeal to all". So going into this with eyes wide open, and realizing that I'm being absolutely and completely subjective here, I'm going to attempt to write down my impressions of the book 'The Deed of Parksenarrion'.

First and foremost, I'd hadn't heard of this book until a buddy that I play D&D with was telling me about it after we had a discussion about paladins. So, I had no real preconceived notions, other than the paladin thing, going into it. This is surprising really, I used to be a voracious reader and it came out about the time that I was reading 2 to 3 books a week. How did I miss it? I'm not sure.

Written by author Elizabeth Moon in 1988 and 89 as a three volume set, the omnibus was published as a whole in 1992, and for that I'm glad. Personally, I absolutely LOVE having a series in one book. I loathe having to traipse all over the city looking for the second or third in a series if the local shop has sold out. Yuck. Sure it's a "big" load when travelling, but I'm OK with that.

Now, as for my overall impression of the story itself, I loved it. It was the first book in a long time that I've had a tough time putting down. There were a lot of reasons for this I imagine.

The author had military experience and it showed. Much of the book takes place while Paksenarrion is in the military and there is a lot of texture that the author injects that lends such realism. She does a great job of also portraying a very strong and competent heroine. There are things that go wrong, yes, she gets injured, but overall, Elizabeth Moon does a very good job of making you believe that there's a little bit more to this girl Paksenarrion.

Another thing that I noticed right away was that the author played Dungeons and Dragons. There were obvious references to it throughout the book. James M. over at Grognardia has blogged about books that have been influenced by the game versus books that have influenced the game. Like him, I generally prefer the later category. I'm not a big fan of books that have nearly literal links to the game. But this one was different.

The references, while obvious, weren't overdone and heavy handed. Moon changed things subtly so that if you didn't know anything at all about Dungeons and Dragons things would still make plenty of sense. In other words, she didn't assume that people reading the book were gamers.

But if you read closely you'll run across references that are just so old school that you can't help but smile. Elizabeth probably played the game during the "golden age" of D&D, and the little tid-bits that you come across are so obviously "Gygaxian". I really loved those parts of the book. Heck, I loved the whole book.

I'm not going to tell any of the story here, but suffice it to say that the writing isn't your standard high fantasy. Yes there are elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs and even the equivalent of Drow, but magic, as it pertains to the setting is very rare and wondrous. In other words the overall story is very gritty.

The story takes place on a much more humanistic level so there's no hugely sweeping, fantastical vistas or world crushing magic spells, etc. It's a very down to earth, if such a thing can be said, and because of that, it seemed to strike a chord in me that was much more reminiscent of the Swords and Sorcery or Swords and Planets genre. Most of my reading has been Leiber, Howard, Smith and Vance of late, so I was not expecting to like this book, even with all the friendly accolades. But I did.

I liked it a LOT. Pick it up if you haven't yet and give it a chance. It's pretty good stuff.


The Rusty Battle Axe said...

Thanks for the review. I hadn't heard of it before.

Avens said...

I know you posted this review forever ago, but I'm a giant fan of Deed of Paksenarrion (and the follow-up prequel Legacy of Gird) and I was randomly google-searching and found this.

Awesome words.
Deed of Paks by Moon and Lyonesse Trilogy by Vance are my favorite fantasy ever.