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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Deed of Paksenarrion

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. Fantasy.

This is an omnibus of a trilogy about a female warrior named Paksenarrion.
  • *** Sheep Farmer's Daughter.

    Paksenarrion runs away from home to avoid an unwanted marriage and joins Duke Phelan's army. She discovers that army life is both more and less than she'd expected, and that she has an aptitude for it.

  • ***½ Divided Allegiance.

    Paks has completed her initial enlistment, and, feeling increasingly dissatisfied, enters training to become a Palladin.

  • *** Oath of Gold.

    The culmination of The Hero's Journey--Paks first has to lose everything to achieve her destiny.

The Deed of Paksenarrion was recommended to me by somebody, years ago, and had been in my TBR pile ever since. It's a trilogy, but the kind of trilogy like LotR--one really long story artificially cut up into separate volumes. So in that respect, it works best in the omnibus form. And to tell you the truth, the books really blurred into one another.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on; what the whole point was for this trilogy. It's a Hero's Journey. There's no other point to it. It's simply a biography of the character of Paksenarrion--a laundry list of events from the time she decided to leave home until she fulfilled her destiny as a Palladin of the Gods. You can go through the books with a list of Hero's Journey steps and check them off clearly, in order, one by one.

This might work, if I had any reason whatsoever to care about Paksenarrion becoming a Palladin. A lot of the reviews (and again, Amazon baffles me--144 reviews, averaging 4.5 stars--we obviously read different books again) compared it to LotR, but there's a huge difference: LotR had a Hero's Journey, true, but it also had an overarching plot. The journey in LotR took place within the context of returning the ring to Mt. Doom. There is no comparable plot to The Deed of Paksenarrion.

It would also have been more effective for me if the characters were more engaging. If, for example, I'd met the character of Paksenarrion in a previous book, when she was already a Palladin, and this was a prequel showing how she got where she was. Perhaps there is such a book, written before, but taking place after The Deed of Paksenarrion. If so, I wish I'd read it first. It's a certainty I won't search it out now.

I do enjoy military details, thankfully, so some of Paksenarrion's adventures were entertaining. The second book, where she came into her own as a warrior, was marginally more exciting. Unfortunately, that didn't last, and by the third book, I started feeling bashed over the head by the Hero's Journey concept.

Her infallibility really started grating, as well. Even when things went wrong, as when her colleagues were killed, it was only because she couldn't save them because she was serving The Greater Good. Also tiresome was the fact that each separate adventure had little to nothing to do with the other adventures in the books.

Two things would have saved this series for me: 1) a context in which to put the Hero's Journey. It could actually have been quite simple--if the evil she defeated at the end had been threatening her home at the beginning--it would have made the entire trilogy more coherent and given me a reason to want her to succeed. 2) Something other than gender to distinguish Paksenarrion from a generic Hero. She's asexual, succeeds at everything she does, and everyone except those who are evil or small-minded loves her. Give her a flaw or two, or make her have to choose between love and destiny. That would have been a story worth reading.


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A Heroine's Journey -- does that make it a bildungsrowoman?

Hah! Snooty puns. Gotta hate 'em. So: are you one of these folks who has to finish something she starts? Because this sounds like one I would have put down. Just sayin.
Ha. Ha.

Actually, I just answered your question in my SBD post! How timely of you to ask. :)
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