|In Short:||An intriguing and engaging, if unevenly written, first book in a follow up series to Moon's masterpiece The Deed of Paksenarrion.|
|“I can tell you this -- nothing will be the same.”|
|-- Jandelir Arcolin|
This is an interesting review to write.
For one, the book Oath of Fealty is not only Elizabeth
Moon's return to the world of her first book series, The
Deed of Paksenarrion, after about 20 years, but also her
return to the genre of Fantasy, having exclusively written
science fiction in the interim. This book is thus also my
return to that world, after 20 years of reading and rereading
the original trilogy, which has taken its place as one of my
favorite series. Perhaps my view of this book is therefore quite
jaded due to hyped up expectations. Returning to a world after
20 years cannot be easy for an artist, let alone completely
satisfying fans while doing so, as any fan of Star Wars
could attest. "But", I hear you saying, "The Star Wars
prequels just plain sucked! We're not jaded!" Okay, fair enough,
but my point still stands - it isn't easy.
So how does Moon fare in this endeavor? Well, rather hit or miss as it happens. The story of Oath of Fealty takes place immediately after the end of Oath of Gold (the final book in the Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy), but instead of following Paks (the main character who performed that deed), this book follows several of the supporting characters: Kieri Phelan, Paks' former commander and newly returned King of the neighboring country; Jandelir Arcolin, senior captain in what is now Phelan's former mercenary company; and Dorrin Verrakai, another captain from the company. The events of the original series leave a lot of unanswered questions - not in a bad way, by any means; the series came to a satisfying conclusion - but potential plot lines abound, and that is what this new book attempts to cover, the whole "well, what happened next?" thought.
So on the plus side, these plot threads that Moon pursues are definitely of interest to the reader, particularly fans of the original trilogy. Kieri starts to deal with the monumental task of ruling over a kingdom with which he is not too familiar (and is half-owned by elves), as well as preparing for his coronation. Arcolin is given the task of being in full command of the Company and trying to replace Kieri. And Dorrin has latent magical powers awoken, necessary for dealing with her estranged and traitorous family. The characters are interesting, the conflicts they encounter are exciting and intriguing, and the book flows quite easily making for a fun read.
So what did I have a problem with? Well, the writing at times seemed rather lazy. There is a lot to nitpick in this book, and it seems like it could have used more/better editing. For instance, there are conversations (or portions of conversations) and certain scenes in the book which are referred to instead of explicitly written, and it was like Moon couldn't figure out how to phrase what it was that she wanted to write, so just decided "heck with it, I don't have to." There is also a problem with continuity. An example: Kieri hears from an advisor that the neighboring king cannot make Kieri's planned coronation "under the circumstances" and it isn't until the next page that a messenger arrives to explain how there are "circumstances". (Err... then why didn't Kieri question that to begin with?) And the continuity issues go between this book and the original trilogy as well. For instance, one character in the original books was the uncle of another character. Now in this book, they are brothers.
Then the many other issues with the book, particularly with the writing and editing, were explained, in an incredibly witty and insightful manner.
Hmmm, yeah, that doesn't really work for book reviews any more than it did for the book itself. I could go on (why is Arcolin consistently referred to by his last name, while Dorrin and Kieri by their first?) and on (everybody in the entire Verrekai family, except for Dorrin, is an evil demon-worshipper? Really? Everyone? And no one else ever questioned this?) and on (if you keep trying to prove Murphy's Law, will something keep going wrong?), but that would probably give the impression that I disliked the book immensely. The truth is, though, that I enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the problems. Reading it, I felt like I was back in that beloved Paksenarrion world. I wanted to keep reading, to find out what happens next. Other books have handled the viewpoints of multiple characters better than this one does (A Song of Ice and Fire comes to mind), but I still cared about each of the characters and was interested in each of their stories. So while I noticed all of the problems inherent in the writing, they didn't (for the most part) take me out of the story. And while the book wasn't quite "Can't Put It Down!" (otherwise known as CPID, least in my crazed, acronym-heavy mind), it was close.
So do I recommend the book? Well... I can't quite do that. Another issue I had with the book was the ending. I know this book is going to be the first in a series, but usually books in series (particularly the first book in a series) have some sort of central conflict for that particular book that is resolved by the end. With this book, the plot lines were definitely engaging, but they weren't resolved enough in my opinion to warrant the end of the book. This felt like half of a book. Maybe I had too high of expectations (I wasn't expecting this book to cure cancer or anything... [it would have been nice, though]), but that how it seemed to me.
So my opinion is that if you have read the Deed of Paksenarrion series and just can't wait to read this book, then by all means do so. You'll enjoy it. For everyone else, though, I would say wait on this book until the rest of the new series is published and then read it all together - perhaps a second edition of this will be out by then fixing many of the minor problems. In the mean time, read (or reread [or re-reread, as I usually do]) the Deed of Paksenarrion.