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Oath of Gold by Elizabeth Moon

Oath of Gold by Elizabeth Moon
Book Name: Oath of Gold
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Publisher(s): Baen
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: January 2, 1989

The Deed of Paksenarrion has been a little hit and miss throughout but at the end of the second instalment my confidence had been restored. The first few chapters of Oath of Gold still held this promise; the healing episode with the Kaukgan was portrayed with a gentle and understanding tone. During these chapters there is an interesting scene where Paks actually meets the gods and whilst this is a divine moment I was not impressed how Paks becomes instantly healed. There are no lasting signs of her mental and emotional trauma, I was disappointed that Moon undermined the focus and realism she’d shown in order to hurry the story along.

Before long Moon slips into old habits particularly in terms of dialogue which has never been strong, there’s a clash between poorly attempted old English and modern day slang which all seems stilted and out of place. Moon does portray the elves in an intriguing and beautiful manner and the episode with Paks and the Elven Rangers is interesting and entertaining. The scene where the ruler of the elves, though very reminiscent of Galadriel, is still beautiful and enchanting and the idea of the elves having realms beyond mortals view which they can move at will was captivating.

After her spell as a Ranger we enter the main storyline, the lost heir. The notion of Paks becoming Queen was so ridiculous and was the epitome of everything I have criticised about the portrayal of Paks, so I was greatly relieved that the notion was quickly dispelled. However, the identity of the lost heir is very obvious and so heavy handed it makes the characters look stupid that they don’t realise sooner. As such the following chapters where they try to discover and establish the heir lack interest, with no anticipation as we already know who the heir is.

In my initial review of Moon’s trilogy I commented how little plot there was but I must commend Moon as the characters she established in the first book return with purpose in the third. However, the Barra storyline which is subtly hinted at in the first book is still a bit extreme and unconvincing. Whilst the hatred fuelled by jealousy is logical, Barra is portrayed as completely evil instead of a believable corrupted character. After all what Barra says does hold some truth in that Paks was always favoured and everything seemed to happen to her, so to an extent her jealousy is understandable.

Once again it is in the harrowing scenes where Moon excels it is in these moments she finally inspires the reader to feel deep emotions for her protagonist. The torture scenes are horrific, simply horrific. And whilst it is effective I found it too cruel an irony to place emphasis of a character remaining chaste, only to then have her repeatedly raped. The resilience she shows is commendable and inspiring and does give a different perspective on how to deal with abject misery.

Religion is a very prominent theme and there are a lot of nods to classical fantasy and Arthurian legend. Whilst this particular aspect didn’t appeal to me the notion of a Knight of God, doing God’s work, saved by their God with all their success achieved by prayer could be very appealing to readers with faith and Arthurian fans.

There are some entertaining battles throughout to keep the action fans pleased, in particular the final battle reminded me of Peter Jackson’s portrayal of Helms Deep to such an extend there is the grand arrival of the elves and the bright light of hope, just like Gandalf as he arrives with the Rhorrim.

Even so the two major antagonists of the trilogy never actually make an appearance. They are mentioned frequently throughout, and Paks encounters many of their minions. I thought as the end of the trilogy was quickly approaching surely they must make an appearance, then a tremendous battle will ensue, but this never happens. I can only imagine that these foes must appear in Moons other work within this universe otherwise I cannot understand why they would be so powerful yet never encountered.

Furthermore I found the ending rather rushed, for a trilogy that ends up being more than 1000 pages it felt that Moon ran out of time and quickly hurried what she’d been working towards the entire time. Also the story quickly becomes about the ‘lost heir’ (whose identity I won’t reveal) rather than Paks who we have followed all this time.

The main aim of the trilogy, as stated in the prologue, was an explanation of what happened to Paksenarrion yet it ends up being an open ended conclusion which could leave the possibility of more books including Paks to follow, though none have been written yet so perhaps this was rethought by Moon. Personally, I felt cheated by the ending, the opening was what gripped me and yet the trilogy does not give what it promises.

Whilst we learn about the most monumental quest in the life of Paks we are told she goes on to have many more and her fate is left untold. Overall the trilogy is entertaining with some moments that are truly gripping and moving. However, I cannot deny that by choice I would have put this trilogy down a long time before the end. Whilst it might be considered a classic by some in my opinion there are far greater works more deserving of the title. As I have always suspected, in its day The Deed of Paksenarrion may have been a classic work of fantasy but in comparison to the works that have come along since it is struggling to maintain that status.


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