Brilliance Audio has recently been putting together some fine productions of many classic fantasy novels that deserve to be heard and I, as a reader, couldn’t be happier. I don’t have much free time these days, and most of my reading is now done by audio, so I was thrilled to find that I could finally listen to The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. The first novel, Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, has just been released, and the rest are following quickly. (By the way, if audiobooks are out of your budget, ask your public library to order them — my library has ordered several that I’ve requested with their online form.)
I enjoyed this story about Paksenarrion (Paks) who, to avoid an arranged marriage to a farmer, runs away to join a mercenary force. It’s not that she knows there’s a future Mr. Right out there, or even that she knows there’s some great evil in the land to be vanquished, but rather that she just isn’t interested in being married or being a farmer’s wife. Of course, life as a mercenary isn’t exactly what she expected, but Paks is honest, competent, and hard-working, so she does pretty well at her new job and we can easily foresee that she’s developing into a future leader.
I had no trouble believing in any of Moon’s characters or their relationships with each other. It didn’t take long for me to find myself rooting and caring for Paks and I was really affected when some of her friends and allies were injured or killed.
Elizabeth Moon’s military experience is evident and she writes believably about the daily minutiae of being a soldier. There’s more time spent marching, eating, waiting, exercising, and being stuck in the mud than fighting. This is very realistic, I’m sure, but it makes the novel move rather slowly at times, and gives it a didactic flavor. I think that readers who haven’t read as many coming-of-age-in-an-army stories as I have will not be so impatient.
Jennifer Van Dyck was a terrific reader with a pleasant voice which effectively portrayed both men and women. There were times when I didn’t care for the over-eager wide-eyed country girl voice that she used for Paks (couldn’t a few of those Yes, Sirs been a little less enthusiastic?), but it’s hard to tell if that was her interpretation or the author’s intent. Overall, Ms. Van Dyck is a reader I’ll be watching for in the future, and Paksenarrion, the sheepfarmer’s daughter, is a heroine whose story I’m looking forward to hearing.