“Crown of Renewal” Elizabeth Moon

Crown of Renewal is the fifth & final book in Elizabeth Moon’s Paladin’s Legacy series and so, as she says in her Author’s Note at the beginning, it’s really not an entry point if you haven’t read at least the four other books in this series (and preferably the other 5 in this world). I’ve got them all, and I’ve been looking forward to this instalment in the series since I read the fourth one last autumn (post). And as with that one I’ve read this through at a gallop (not quite in one sitting this time but only because I had other things to do). It’s a satisfying conclusion to this series, and also ties up some of the loose ends from the earlier two series.

To recap a little – these books are secondary world epic fantasy, set in a universe that owes a debt to the Tolkein-esque & D&D flavours of fantasy. There are elves, there are gnomes, there are dragons, there are paladins, and so on. But Moon has taken these archetypes and made them into something her own. I particularly like her gnomes – these are humanoid and live in stone & work with it. And they have a society based around a very strict Law. Moon has managed to make them feel very alien, and very much their own thing. The first series set in this world was the Deed of Paksenarrion, which followed the life of Paksenarrion from her early life as a sheep farmer’s daughter who signs up with a mercenary company, through to her becoming a Paladin of Gird. The next series was a duology set much earlier in this world’s history – about the human life of Gird before he became a sort of demi-god. This current five book series starts not long after the end of the Deed of Paksenarrion, and deals with the events that Paks set in motion – nothing is without consequences after all. Another thread of the story is about why there are such differences between Gird’s teachings and life as we see them in the duology about him, and in the “now” of Paksenarrion’s time. It’s not just a case of chinese whispers across the centuries, although there’s some of that too.

Moon’s antagonists tend to be less nuanced than her other characters – they are generally flat out evil. In some ways this is a weakness in her writing, but I also feel that she does it deliberately as part of portraying a comforting faith in humanity. Her non-antagonist characters (in particular the secondary characters) can be mistaken, misguided, irritating, wrong, and do bad things. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad people – where you step across the line is when you know something is wrong and then do it anyway. These books have a fairly black & white morality and a Good vs Evil struggle, but you don’t have to be perfect to be on the side of light you just have to be doing your best. Which is a comforting way of looking at the world. Even Moon’s paladins aren’t avatars of perfection, they have flaws and make missteps.

This is still one of my favourite worlds to read books in 🙂 It’s a shame this book means no more for a while (if ever) but it was good to get another 5 books series after I’d thought the story was over.

“Limits of Power” Elizabeth Moon

Limits of Power is the fourth in Elizabeth Moon’s five book series Paladin’s Legacy. It’s a sequel series to a trilogy she wrote in the late 80s collectively called The Deed of Paksenarrion. They’re secondary world fantasy of a sort that is indebted to Tolkein and/or D&D – i.e. there are elves, dwarves, gnomes, dragons, the tech level is pre-industrial revolution, there are gods (of various types) who exist in some tangible sense, and magic of a variety of sorts. The original trilogy follows the story of a sheepfarmer’s daughter called Paksenarrion who joins a mercenary group, and gradually discovers that she is called to serve as a Paladin of Gird. It’s one of my favourite series of books. There’s a duology written afterwards that are set centuries before Paksenarrion’s day, about Gird – whilst he was of god-like status by Paks’s time he began life as an ordinary mortal man, and these two books are his story and the origin story of the main human society in the Paks trilogy.

Paladin’s Legacy is set after the end of The Deed of Paksenarrion, and as the name suggests it’s the working out of the consequences of the events of the Deed. It’s difficult to talk about any of the actual plot happenings in this book without spoilers, being the fourth book in an ongoing series, so I think I won’t try. Unlike the trilogy, which is all from Paks’s point of view, these books are from a variety of viewpoints. Also unlike the trilogy these characters are mostly older. One of the themes running through the books of Paladin’s Legacy so far is of the past catching up with people – people’s family or heritage becoming suddenly important after years spent living some other life whether through choice or necessity. And of people in their middle years or older facing up to change or to new circumstances. And the broader world is too – magic that hasn’t been seen for years starts popping up, other races that are thought to be legend show themselves. The consequences of events from Gird’s time & before coming home to roost. And people having to face up to duties or responsibilities they wouldn’t’ve asked for.

I read this book in an afternoon, and I suspect I’ll get more out of it the next time I read it – this time was to gallop through & find out what happened to everyone. I think once I have the fifth book (next year I guess) I’ll have to go back to the beginning & read them all again 🙂