Published by Orbit on 1998
Genres: Fantasy, War & Military, Young Adult, Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
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Paksenarrion defies her father's orders to marry the pig farmer down the road, instead, she's off to join the army. So her adventure begins - the adventure that transforms her into a hero chosen by the gods to restore a lost ruler to his throne.
This was a book that ended up in my pile of books I bought but never got around to reading. It was as if I was collecting books for the sole purpose of possessing them. I decided to change that, starting with this one.
Initially, I thought I might have made a mistake. It’s an older book with a form of story telling that a lot of folks would consider outdated. I know my writing teachers would have rolled their eyes over the number of times Paksenarrian “feels” something. Too telly, they’d say. Show us what she’s feeling. But I gave it a chance, and soon found myself caught up in the details of a soldier’s life.
Ms. Moon approaches the whole “teen runs off to find herself” story differently than most. It’s not glamorous, it lacks the overdone romance riddling so much fantasy and YA, and it’s chock full of details about learning the ways of a foot soldier. Many may find that boring, however it fascinated me. This is a world where a cut can fester and kill a person. Latrine duty is a necessary and nasty job. People you know and trust fail you or die unexpectedly. Discipline might include public humiliation and punishment. It’s not philosophical. It’s not pretty. It’s very human.
For the most part, the writing is straight forward, not overly pretty like an R. Scott Bakker, and lacking in wise cracking and deep dialogue like Stephen Erikson. Paks isn’t the most dynamic or sophisticated heroine. At times she drove me nuts with her inability to express herself. It’s obvious she’s shy and unworldly. But over the course of the story she learns a great deal and proves herself loyal and brave. By the end of the book, she has her first true battle experience and finds that reality and bards songs have little in common.
If you have an interest in reading a fantasy novel that reads a bit more like historical fiction than the norm, you may enjoy this book. It’s low on magic and high on detail in terms the everyday life of a new recruit in a mercenary army.