Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Deed of Paksenarrion: Divided Allegiance by Elizabeth Moon

There are Men in Middle-Earth, even though Tolkein's stories center on Hobbits and Elves. Elizabeth Moon takes that rich tapestry of orcs, Elves, dark sorcery, and high chivalry to a new place with the trilogy The Deed of Paksenarrion.
DrPat Review, Sheepfarmer's Daughter

In Divided Allegiance, the second volume of her Paksenarrion trilogy, Elizabeth Moon takes big, cheerful, athletic, capable Paks to a new level.

Paks is no longer the raw recruit, but a respected member of Duke Phelan's company, and it has become clear that Paks is capable of much more. She is accepted as an officer-candidate in the Fellowship of Gird, and departs the company for training that will, at least, vault her to the officer's ranks, and may lead her to become a palladin, an annointed knight-errant. Along the way, she encounters several Elves who, without asking Paks' permission, divert her from her path to enter the "elfane taig," a land tainted by evil.

There, Paks again is faced with the bloated spider-minions of the Webmistress Achrya, and the orcs and corrupted men who serve Liart, Master of Torments. She fights valiantly, losing herself in battle-lust (or perhaps, being taken over by ensorceled armor), and succeeds in freeing the taig of its corruption. The grateful Elves reward her with amnesia and a load of armor and weaponry, some of it just as tainted as the taig had been. Paks resumes her interrupted journey to Fin Panir, the Great Hall of the Fellowship.

Before she arrives, Paks decides to have some clothing made in Brewersbridge. There she meets the Kuakgan, a sort of green-priest, and several other notable military figures. Her choice of green and gold colors for her clothing nearly gets her in trouble; in an society where livery signals loyalty, it is not wise to prefer the colors of an enemy court. Pak's self-honesty rescues her—barely—from this contretemps.

At Fin Panir, however, the brutal nature of Pak's honesty bruises tender sensibilities, and her pride in her abilities disturbs some of her instructors. We still like Paks, but she is beginning to question her own destiny, and wonder if she is self-deluded. Even an invitation to learn axe-handling from the resident dwarves, a rare opportunity indeed, is recast as arrogance and manipulation.

When the chance comes to journey to the long-lost stronghold of Gird's army, Paks is fortunate to be included. Before they can arrive, Paks is taken prisoner by the kuaknom, the "unnamed" evil cousins of the Elves. Her wounds from the long-past battle for the elfane taig are reanimated by this captivity, and even after she is rescued and "healed," continue to plague her. The poison of them goes far deeper than her skin, and threatens to kill, not Paks, but what makes her so admirable to us. Her choice is to remain whole with a crippled soul, or to accept the radical healing that may cripple her body.

No matter which choice Paks makes, it will cost her dearly.
"She came only last fall, she was palladin-candidate after Midwinter Feast. That's different, if you like! Promising, they all said. Remarkable. Chosen to go on Quest, when she's not even past her Trials. Then she gets herself captured like any half-wit yeoman without battle experience, and rather than die honorably, as most yeoman would have done, she cooperates with the kuaknom and is contaminated by Achrya." Haran slapped the table... "It's not that she's special, it's that she's had special treatment. And far too much of it!" Haran turned on her heel and stalked out.

As Sheepfarmer's Daughter was a Tolkien-esque telling of the thrills and fears of recruit soldiers, Divided Allegiance takes us into the soul-searching that comes with stepping out of the comfortable ranks for an officer's responsibilities. As well, we gain a perspective of those responsibilities in an era of foot-soldiery, when the high-tech weapons were magic and treachery.

Review of Volume 1, Sheepfarmer's Daughter.

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Blogger Martin LaBar said...

Well, you have pretty well covered it.

10/27/2008 5:33 AM  

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