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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion, re-visited.

I recently re-read Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion. The book is a trilogy, published as a single volume, which volume is over 1,000 pages in length as a paperback.  Moon has won the Nebula award, for the best science fiction work published in a year, as judged by other writers -- a prestigious award. The trilogy, however, is another type of fantastic literature, variously called epic, high, or sword and sorcery fantasy.

I don't wish to give away much of the plot, but will present some general themes, and also link to previous posts on the work. The story takes place in a fantasy world, which may or may not be part of earth at some time in the past. There is no  internal combustion, no gunpowder, no antibiotics or printing presses, no easy way to communicate over distances. Several kingdoms are involved, over hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles.

Paksenarrion began life as a sheepfarmer's daughter, which is the title of the first book of the trilogy. But she ran away from home, seeking glory as a soldier, and fleeing from an arranged marriage. Many fantasy stories tell of some obscure person discovering that they are actually of royal descent. Paksenarrion does not discover this. She does gain recognition by hard work, by learning from those more experienced, by her intelligence, and her general goodness. She is taller than most women, and strong. Eventually, she becomes one of the best, perhaps the best warrior of her time.

Many novels include a romantic element. Paksenarrion never falls in love with a man. She thinks that she could have, but that chance ended with the death of her friend. She does, in a non-erotic sense, fall in love with her military leader, and with the deities of her world.

Moon claims to be a Christian, and is an active participant in a local church. I have no reason to doubt this. Paksenarrion begins by not taking any religion very seriously, or at least no more seriously than the average farmer in her culture -- she pays lip service, only to the religion of her culture. But she comes to believe in a real supernatural High Lord, and in at least one saint, or subordinate god, Gird, and develops a relationship with them both.

The trilogy, as indicated above, portrays Paksenarrion as a truly good person, although she makes a few bad choices. She is virtuous, at least partly because of divine guidance. She is so good, in fact, that she sacrifices herself, sometimes in extremely dangerous ways, for others. As she matures, she puts the directions of the High Lord, Gird, or her leaders, above her own plans and desires, and the directions of the High Lord, or Gird, above the desires of earthly leaders.

There are evil beings, gods, orcs, other nasty non-humans, and humans who have permanently chosen evil over good in this world. There is a good side, and a bad side, and it's clear that Paksenarrion, and Moon, are on the side of good. Paksenarrion has several very difficult experiences. She is falsely accused by another, she is captured and tortured, twice, and, of course, she becomes a soldier, experiencing weather, sleeplessness, lack of food, and fighting. She loses good friends to death.

All in all, this trilogy is one of the finest works of fantastic literature available. Although it takes a little from Tolkien -- there are elves and orcs in it -- the elves aren't exactly the same as Tolkien's, and the books are definitely not derivative. There are no hobbits, or ents. There's no Gandalf-like figure. Women are given roles equal to men, on merit, not their sex. The hard work of getting ready for battle, and training, and setting up a camp, or a fort, is thoroughly presented (Moon has military experience herself).

I have previously posted on this trilogy, and on the question of whether it is a Christian work, on Biblical morals in the work, and on whether a Christian writer may be justified in presenting God in ways different from those in the Bible.

Thanks for reading. If you have the stamina, read The Deed of Paksenarrion. It is one of the finest works of fantasy available.

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