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Divided Allegiance by Elizabeth Moon

Divided Allegiance by Elizabeth Moon
Book Name: Divided Allegiance
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Publisher(s): Baen
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: October 1, 1988

I cannot deny I approached Divided Allegiance with some trepidation having been disappointed by the first book in Moon’s trilogy. So I was pleased to find that the second book began to right some of the wrongs of the predecessor. Pretty rapidly the narrative lands on an adventure and whilst doing so it introduces us to the race of elves who, up until this point, we have only heard about. Magic is also dealt with more openly than in the first book in a rather heart wrenching episode with a snow leopard. The adventure with the ‘half elf’ is somewhat confused and ends rather abruptly but once again Moon shows no qualms in killing off characters she has portrayed up until that point as integral.

I had initially perceived this adventure to be the central plot however this quickly proved not to be the case and once again the narrative was lacking a plot until halfway through. This is not to say there are not some interesting episodes up until this point, battle scenes and new races to meet keep it entertaining enough though still lacking the potential its reputation promised.

Throughout the first book Gird is frequently referenced yet not fully explained, this book expands these ideas and gives a clearer explanation which is necessary considering the path Paks takes. It is when Paks decides to join Gird that the book finally finds its feet.

Whilst the first section mainly involves training and introducing the reader to new characters it still managed to be the most entertaining episode up until that point, whereas in the first book the training scenes were tedious and the characters so lack lustre it was difficult to remember who was who. But in this episode we have characters with faults, even Paks shows she is not good at everything and her friends are entertaining and even amusing. Unlike previously Paks is not loved by everyone she meets, she is judged, she is challenged and due to her inability to succeed in everything we finally see her character flaws.

The once glorified Paks is shown to be indecisive, stroppy when she finds something difficult and she’s even accused of using the order for her own gain. She is challenged emotionally instead of physically and through overcoming this I finally felt she deserved some of the good fortune that comes her way.

As well as elves we are also introduced to dwarves, whilst the elves and dwarves do not differ greatly from the stereotypes established by Tolkien, Moon’s attempt at establishing the dwarves unusual way of speech and culture is interesting but a bit clumsy at times.

It is the final section of this book where Moon really shines and I finally found myself emotionally involved. Without giving too much away, Paks is forced to undergo something that is more horrific and challenging than anything she’s faced up until this point. But unlike some other fantasy novels Paks doesn’t come away from this physically or mentally unscathed nor does she deal with these things easily.

Paks is severely damaged by the end of the novel, physically she’s brutally scarred even on her face destroying the beauty which was previously mentioned. But it is the mental damage which I found really fascinating. As I mentioned in my previous review Moon doesn’t shy away from showing the stark realities of warfare and in this scenario it means she delves into post traumatic stress in a very realistic and heart wrenching way which gives the novel a depth it had previously lacked and I finally found myself feeling for Paks.

Paks is already severely damaged but things slowly get worse and worse until she is so diminished she is unrecognisable from who she was before. I found the final chapter very effective, Paks’s future is so uncertain that the narrative leaves her and we are left with a series of letters as our only way of trying to establish what has happened to her. This also gives us subtle hints and insights into the lives of essential characters from both books. Our protagonist’s future is so uncertain and so different from how you expected the narrative to go that I find myself really wanting to read the third book simply to find out what happens to her.

There are still numerous flaws within the book but unlike the first book in the trilogy Divided Allegiance has enough redeemable qualities to make it a good read. Whilst there is still an issue with pace Moon has certainly improved when it comes to character development. And whilst I still find secondary characters more interesting than the protagonist, the Paks character has developed and her experiences make it almost impossible to not feel something for her.

Moon has shown herself to be an author who is not afraid to challenge difficult and unexpected issues in her work nor will she give you the outcome you expect. My opinion of this trilogy has certainly improved since my previous review, I hope the final book in the trilogy will be the best of all and I will finally appreciate Moon the way so many of her readers do.


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