Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sheepfarmer's Daughter (Elizabeth Moon)

Sheepfarmer's Daughter
(The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy, Book 1)
Elizabeth Moon
Fiction, Fantasy
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Paksenarrion Dothansdotter, born to a humble family of northern sheepfarmers, has dreamed of a soldier's life ever since a cousin returned from service with tales of glory and the wonders of the world beyond the pasture fences. Now eighteen, with her father demanding she marry a local pig farmer, Paks decides to stop dreaming and follow her heart. She runs away from home to sign on with Duke Phelan's mercenaries, one of the more honorable units operating in the realm. As childhood dreams of war collide with the hard drudgery of a soldier's life, a greater threat grows over the land - one that will draw this sheepfarmer's daughter deep into its heart, where dark powers and unexpected miracles await.

REVIEW: This started fast, establishing Paks as a strong-willed young woman who, instead of pining for glory and whining about her harsh life with an abusive father, sets off down the road to make her dream come true. Unfortunately, that's about all there is to her, and the story. She wants to be a solder, then within two chapters, she's a recruit. Problem solved. This is followed by long chapters of training and marching here and there across Moon's fantasy landscape, a journey in which Paks is usually little more than a pair of eyes for the reader to peek through (and a pair of ears to receive long lectures explaining the world, its geography, its politics, and its myriad gods and saints, among other infodumps.) Paks quite literally has no other purpose in this world, no other ambition or want save being a soldier, and nothing stops her from fulfilling it. Yawn. Naturally, she's uncommonly talented at it - she's not a prodigy by any means, but she quickly moves to the head of the new recruits, and her inexperience doesn't keep her from succeeding at pretty much every task she's assigned. It isn't until round about the halfway mark that things start to go wrong, and further still before any great threat arises... but, then, this comes with a revelation (denied repeatedly, and bordering on ridiculously, by Paks herself) that divine will may be guiding her destiny. So, not only is she the perfect soldier, but she's quite literally blessed. No wonder she can't fail. After this, and a few pointless sidetracks into other characters, it ends on an awkward half-finished note - but it's the ending that finally made me understand the snail's pace and grinding, infodump- and battle tactic-heavy tedium of the preceding story: Sheepfarmer's Daughter is not a book per se, but merely one-third of a longer story, The Deed of Paksenarrion. Even though I'd almost, finally, possibly formed some manner of interest in Paks by then, I was so ticked off to realize that I'd been duped this way that I don't foresee myself following her any further. Besides, I'd long since reached my limit on random names - people names, city names, god names, saint names, and more - that I couldn't begin to keep straight anymore.

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