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The Deed of Paksenarrion #1

Sheepfarmer's Daughter

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Paksenarrion — Paks for short — is somebody special. She knows it, even if nobody else does yet. No way will she follow her father's orders to marry the pig farmer down the road. She's off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again.

And so her adventure begins... the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost ruler to his throne.

Here is her tale as she lived it.

Paks is trained as a mercenary, blooded, and introduced to the life of a soldier . . . and to the followers of Gird, the soldier's god.

512 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published June 1, 1988

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About the author

Elizabeth Moon

182 books2,424 followers
Elizabeth Moon was born March 7, 1945, and grew up in McAllen, Texas, graduating from McAllen High School in 1963. She has a B.A. in History from Rice University (1968) and another in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin (1975) with graduate work in Biology at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

She served in the USMC from 1968 to 1971, first at MCB Quantico and then at HQMC. She married Richard Moon, a Rice classmate and Army officer, in 1969; they moved to the small central Texas town where they still live in 1979. They have one son, born in 1983.

She started writing stories and poems as a small child; attempted first book (an illustrated biography of the family dog) at age six. Started writing science fiction in high school, but considered writing merely a sideline. First got serious about writing (as in, submitting things and actually getting money...) in the 1980s. Made first fiction sale at age forty--"Bargains" to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress III and "ABCs in Zero G" to Analog. Her first novel, Sheepfarmer's Daughter, sold in 1987 and came out in 1988; it won the Compton Crook Award in 1989. Remnant Population was a Hugo nominee in 1997, and The Speed of Dark was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and won the Nebula in 2004.

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5,668 (44%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 727 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,572 reviews8,224 followers
June 3, 2013
Like a microscope on a game safari, Sheepfarmer's Daughter focuses on exactly the wrong details. The classic epic fantasy is notable for a common-born female lead, Paks, and the focus on her life after she joins a private military company. I enjoyed the writing style and the quality, but felt I would have liked a little more character development: the times we hear Paks' inner dialogue are too far apart, and there is too much description without reflection.

I can appreciate that the lavish details of the road are pertinent to an infantry soldier, and I give Moon credit for attempting to capture some of the necessary repetition and drills in a soldier's life. While Moon captured that sense of hard routine, I would have thought including more scenes of her bedding down on the road, discussions around the campfire, etc., could have let Paks in for some personal growth. Without it, the characters lack all but the most distinguishing of characteristics, and there are few episodes of building camaraderie, except with Saren. When a soldier is lost, it is almost meaningless, an expected casualty. Likewise, Paks remains a young, amorphous blob of a character; it is evident she is Loyal, Honest, Strong and Energetic, but she seems to spare very little thought for the dynamics of a company, the larger world, why her superiors would be confiding in her and so forth. We can see from a couple of small events that Paks is bound for Greater Things, but because Paks doesn't want to think about it, the narration doesn't.

The plot is decent, although troubled at times by the narrative jump of "three months ago..." or "six months later..." A long section at the beginning deals with investigating an assault involving Paks, and I found it both an odd narrative choice for the beginning of a story and a relief to be spared the actual scene. (Insert feminist rant about swordswomen needing to be assaulted/raped by men). Sexuality is mentioned a couple of times after that, but then never again addressed, which seemed odd. It was clearly an issue for company members, and for her family before she ran away, but once in the company, she spends almost no time thinking about it or even acting on it. The microscope focusing in on road quality leaves giant holes where other details might lie.

Overall, the story felt remarkable for its thoroughness and for its determination to tell the tale of an Ordinary Soldier, even if that soldier is bound to become Extraordinary. Quite frankly, it was a "it was okay" level book for me, but I rounded up due to the quality of writing.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...
Profile Image for Dawn.
326 reviews103 followers
December 4, 2015
My oh my... Oh my oh my oh my.

When I started reading this, I thought I was going to love it. It had come with such high recommendations, and it sounded like it was right up my alley. I was so excited to finally have time to dive into it! Unfortunately, I was ultimately disappointed. It just didn't work for me... Try as I might, I just couldn't make myself like it.

It was just so boring. It literally put me to sleep whenever I tried to read it. Which was great for those late nights that I just couldn't fall asleep... But not so great during my lunch break at work, or in the middle of a weekend afternoon. Seriously though.. It was beyond boring. Nothing happened! Thinking back now, I can't tell you what the book was about, other than to say it was about a chick who joined a mercenary company, marched around a bunch, acted dense a lot, and fought from time to time. So basically, what the blurb says. That's all. Just page after page of clinical descriptions of marching here and marching there. Half of the time I didn't even realize a fight had started until it was halfway over.

And Paks.. I just didn't like her. At all. She was dense and very stand-offish. She didn't seem to develop any relationships with the other characters, with the exception of one, and that one didn't end well. For that matter, let's talk about the other characters. They were flat and interchangeable. No personality. No depth. It was just...... Blah. All around blah.

After a while, it was impossible not to imagine the whole book being read to me in a really boring monotone. It was like someone followed Paks around and wrote down everything she did and said, and then published it all, word for word, without editing it down to the interesting or important bits.

Suffice it to say, I guess I'm just not a fan of Paks or her deeds. I have no interest in trying the next book in the series, or reading about Paks ever again. Harsh, I know... But when you know it's not right you just have to cut the string right away, before someone gets hurt. So Paks.. This is goodbye. Have fun deeding it up, don't keep in touch.
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,877 followers
June 30, 2019
I needed a change of pace so I decided to read the first book in a three book fantasy series that I have wanted to read for a long time. I do want to make a quick note that this is not lesfic since that is what I mostly review on Goodreads. The main character appears to be asexual so there were no romances only friendships in this book.

The story is about a young woman name Packs who escapes her family that expects her to marry the local pig farmer. Packs is really tall and had built up alot muscle from moving sheep around. She runs away to a recruiting area to join up with a band of mercenaries who fight for pay. Packs wants to be a solider and wants to fight in war and that is exactly what she will get.

I love books with strong kickass women. This first book follows Packs from age 18-20, I believe. And while most of the action happens around Packs she doesn’t feel like a Mary Sue character. She has to overcome plenty of adversity and she doesn’t think she better than everyone. If anything she could use even more self-confidence which may come in future books.

I would put this more in the high fantasy category than epic fantasy, but that’s just my opinion. This book is filled with excitement including plenty of battles. The book is violent but it almost feels more PG-13 violent that R rated violence. Lots of people die and plenty of bad things happen but the gore level is not shoved down your throat.

While I do wish this book was actually in first person to really get in Packs head, I found myself to be very comfortable with Moons writing. This was over 400 pages and I’m already jonesing to immediately start book 2. If you think you might be interested in this series it is cheaper to buy it as a three book collection under The Deed of Paksenarrion, than each book separately. The link says the collection is books 3-5 just ignore that, it is the right one.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,849 followers
June 30, 2016
I have read and reviewed the text version of this book. My daughter got me this (and the next 2 parts of the trilogy) for Christmas this year (2010).

I want to review this in that a wonderful book can be read by a "not so wonderful reader" and be then in audio form...not so wonderful. That isn't the case here. While not the best reader I've ever heard in an audio book Jennifer Van Dyck does a fine job on the book and only in a couple of places does she miss a cue or fail to carry over the emotion that I believe Ms. Moon wanted.

Let me say again that I love these books and can't recommend them highly enough. I "read" these books years ago, have read them several times, and will in all probability reread and now re-listen to them again and again.

This is one of those series (I think of them as a single book) where when I run on someone who doesn't like them or doesn't get them I am as the saying goes... flummoxed.

I find these full of life lessons as well as one of the best most involving stories I've ever read. The audio works for me also and I (a rough, tough, macho, conservative male) find myself in tears at times during the story. Again as in the text version, 5+ stars.

I have recently reread these and am almost compelled to come here, update this to say, don't miss this one. These are at the top of my favorites list. About very few books do I say, I love love this book, but in this case I do. Again, my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for r..
174 reviews79 followers
January 18, 2009
After a promising prologue geared me up for a rousing adventure, I was massively disappointed by how dull this book ultimately was. It was the worst kind of dull, in fact, given that it wasn't due to nothing happening, but rather to how the events that did happen were related.

In short: the prose of this novel has all the spirit and passion of a grocery list. And to go along with that the main character, Paks, is painfully flat and uninteresting. She's a naive (nearly to the point of stupidity) and also honorable farm girl with a ridiculously black-and-white view of the world who becomes a soldier to fight for good and great glory and all that, and that's it. She never does a single thing to transcend that very basic character premise. Which wouldn't be as problematic if there was any examination of said premise at all.

As it is, Paks seems to be entirely incapable of any sort of complexity of thought or feeling. Most times she seems almost like a disinterested observer, dully bringing us an accounting of every mundane detail (EVERY SINGLE MUNDANE DETAIL) of these three years of her life. And on the rare occasions when she does start to think or feel something of any depth, another character pretty immediately explains her feelings to her and she gets over it and goes right back to how far the troops walked on this day and the next day and what they ate and how long they slept and on and on ad infinitum. That or she asks some stupid question so that another character can give us a geography or history lesson for a few pages.

I would give the book credit for being a fantasy novel with a female protagonist and having absolutely no romance storyline outside of a few passing mentions that a friend of hers would be up for a roll in the hay if she was (which she declares that she is not and never will be with anyone). I WOULD, but given the defects of Paks's characterization already outlined, her asexuality starts to seem more like a result of her complete lack of depth of emotion than any kind of statement or subversion. And, really, based on the blatant foreshadowing in this book about Paks becoming a paladin, if I were to read the sequels (which I have no intention of doing), I worry that I would eventually begin to feel that it was actually in the service of some ridiculous Virginal (and thus ~*~pure~*~) Instrument of the Divine trope.

In conclusion: snooooore.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books598 followers
March 30, 2017
Note, March 30, 2017: I've just edited this review to reflect a change of perspective on one point, brought about by being exposed to new factual information in the four years since I wrote it.

My wife and I are reading the entire trilogy that this volume opens together; and since I have at least one Goodreads friend who's curious about my reaction, I thought I'd review the three novels as we finish them, rather than as an omnibus volume at the end (though we're reading the omnibus volume). [Note: I subsequently reviewed the trilogy as a unit, here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... .] Personally, I wasn't as taken with this one as my friends Mike and Jon were, even though (obviously) I like it; through most of the read, I'd expected to give it three stars, but a strong ending pulled it up to four.

This trilogy is the story of a young woman (in a fantasy world) who, as a tall, strapping farm girl of eighteen years, runs away from home to escape an unwanted forced marriage, and joins a company of mercenary soldiers. The Goodreads description sounds like it's copied from a jacket blurb, and (as blurbs sometimes do) has a few inaccuracies. Most obviously, Paks does NOT think of herself as special in any way. (Any hint that she's to play a role in "restoring a king to his throne" must come in the later two books, not this one!) Also, her military service doesn't require her to abjure ever seeing her family again. (And as far as the cover goes, she rides a horse only once or twice, briefly, in this book; she's a foot soldier and doesn't own a horse.)

Moon's literary vision here has both strengths and weaknesses (which are sometimes the converse of each other). Her world-building is very detailed; it brooks comparison with Tolkien's or, at least, Paolini's on that score. She also brings a high level of realism to the fantasy genre; as a Marine veteran, she knows a great deal about what the experience of initiation and training into a military unit is like. Indeed, other than the fact that Paks trains with a sword rather than a rifle, her life as a recruit is probably much like that of real-life modern "grunts" going through boot camp; and Moon recounts it in great detail. The realistic note continues through the book; though magic operates in this world, it doesn't appear much here. (Elves, dwarves, orcs and other such species exist, but outside of old songs and stories, Paks only hears rare references to them, or gets rarer glimpses of one; magical healing of wounds is possible, but under limitations that make it pretty rare, and certain individuals and objects associated with various religions have supernatural powers, but these usually don't materially effect the story and aren't often in view.) Realistically as well, Moon is willing to suddenly kill off characters, including characters you'll have come to like and care about --exactly the way that real-life humans may die suddenly in combat situations, whether everybody likes and cares about them or not. Characterizations here are, not surprisingly, very realistic and vivid, and this is true of many secondary and minor characters too.

Some fantasy fans may want a higher level of magical content in their reads, and find this one too much on the "mundane" side (though I don't have a problem with this myself). Some readers won't be happy to have characters they like, and expect to play more prominent roles, killed off. A bigger problem, though, is pacing. Usually, I have a pretty high tolerance for a slow narrative pace (and the time it takes Barb and I to get through a book with me reading aloud to her, what with our limited time for this, tends to make ANY book seem slow-paced). Even so, I found this one glacially slow. Moon takes us through every aspect of "boot camp" life, every stage of every journey, every part of a siege, etc. You learn a lot about the world and the characters this way, but some scenes don't add anything along that line. There are exciting, action-filled scenes, too; but many readers would find this narrative draggy in quite a few places.

Religion in Moon's world is polytheistic, with cults of various gods (some of whom are quite nasty) and saints; some of these, both good and evil, appear to have actual power behind them. This aspect isn't developed much in this first book, but there are indications that one sect, that of St. Gird, will play a much bigger role in the next book. Ethical insight is more in evidence here than theological. For much of the book, to be sure, Paks' character frustrated me in this regard. She's likeable enough as a person, and she does have a moral code; but she simply doesn't think about the ethics of taking human life on the battlefield in wars over things like trade or border disputes, where her company happens to be on whichever side hired them first. To her, that's just what mercenary soldiers do; it's simply a morally neutral job that she likes and is pretty good at --though, to her credit, it's important to her that she's part of an "honorable company" that doesn't murder noncombatants or rob innocent peasants. (I felt, for much of the book, that though Paks is the viewpoint character, we're annoyingly not privy to her deep thoughts --until I realized that, duh, she's just a basically good-natured but simple young girl who doesn't HAVE really deep thoughts!) But there are indications that Moon doesn't share Pak's simplicity here, and that our heroine's ethical sensibilities are in for some growth and development in the succeeding books; and this one ends with a crisis of genuine moral decision, in the tradition of serious fiction that aspires to do more than just entertain, and that for me lifted the rating to four stars.

That a character, male or female, chooses to be chaste in relating to the opposite sex (that doesn't entail a vow of celibacy; married sex is chaste!), even though he/she has normal drives that need to be disciplined, isn't something I find unrealistic; rather, it's refreshing and commendable. But a total lack of interest in sex, to the point that a character is essentially asexual (especially in the late teen years, when hormone levels are still high from puberty), did not, at the time I read the book, come across to me as realistic. Since then, I've learned that although this is an unusual condition, it's one that actually exists in the real world, and so is not at all unrealistic. But the author doesn't provide that context for understanding this; and the unexplained marked difference of Pak's mindset in this respect from that of anyone else I'd ever been aware of made it hard for me, at the time, to relate to her character in that area. More importantly, while I appreciate Moon's depiction of a society where women can occupy positions of authority and can train and serve as warriors in full equality with men, I wonder about the practical effects of mixed-sex units sharing the "jacks' and the sleeping quarters, especially when sex between soldiers isn't forbidden. (Unless the herbal contraceptives that are set out on the mess tables are more effective than the herbs used in our world, I can see one potential problem immediately.) The addition of homosexual soldiers to the mix (which Moon depicts in the book) adds another wrinkle of complication. (And no, that doesn't mean I "hate and fear" homosexuals!) In real life, I'm not so sure that all of this would work as smoothly, or that most people would handle the close proximity as well, as Moon depicts (and she does deal in detail with a case of sexual harassment, even here!); but I could be wrong, and that's not to say that I have all the answers. (I've generally tended to think that men and women in the military should serve in segregated units; and women's units like the all-female elite corps in the army of the old Dahomey empire, or the Russian Battalion of Death, certainly have set a great precedent. But I suppose it's arguable that mixed units create a more natural atmosphere than segregated ones do, and might also minimize or prevent some sexual problems; so the effects wouldn't necessarily be only negative.)

Note: Moon begins the trilogy with what's apparently a "frame" device. One of my Goodreads friends who reviewed this book felt the other half of the frame should have come at the end of this one; but I'm guessing that Moon's intent was to put it at the end of the third book, so that the whole trilogy fits into the "frame."
Profile Image for Maria.
79 reviews73 followers
December 12, 2016
This is the first book in a trilogy, and it's a realistic depiction of military life in a fantasy world, with just a few hints of magic and evil forces at the end. We follow Paksenarrion (Paks for short) for about three years of her life, from she runs away from home at 18, until she's a veteran soldier in Duke Phelan's mercenary company. This was a long awaited re-read for me, I first read it when I was 14 or 15, and loved it.

The reviews here on GR seems to be quite mixed, and (as usual) I really liked some of the things that put others off this book. I'm going to write a bit about the book's realism, the main character and its language, and try to explain why I liked it.

The strength of this novel lies in its realism.

I didn't find the realistic depictions of a soldiers everyday life boring at all. It's not just page after page of digging latrines and cleaning your sword. Although the repetitive duties of a soldier does reoccur regularly throughout the text, it's usually just a short description, and then the plot moves on. And it's always interspersed with personal relationships and developing friendships. Some other reviewers found this boring, but I had no problem with it at all. It gave a lot of depth to the story, and made it all believable. I would go so far as to say that it was absolutely necessary, that it gave the book its distinct personality. There would certainly be very little immersion without it (the writing itself provides very little).

Paks and the other soldiers gets wet and cold. They get exhausted. They need food and sleep at regular intervals. Just like you and me. If they have to fight on an empty stomach or without much sleep they suffer for it. They make mistakes, and get hurt or die. Wounds get infected. Battles are often muddy and dusty, a confusing mess of arms and legs. Sometimes you don't get along that well with your allies. There is little glory to be found.

Sometimes inexperienced recruits have the wrong attitude or an unrealistic view of their own abilities. Sometimes a battle is badly planned or the enemy does something you didn't expect. Lots of people Paks gets to know and befriend are random casualties in different battles. A character doesn't survive just because they are a good friend of the main character. There is a realistic randomness to who lives and who dies.

So when all the everyday organizational bits of campaigning just works, everyone cooperates like they are supposed to and you actually win, it feels soooo much better than it would if all of these details were not in place.

Paks is a fascinating, but boring, character.

Yes, both at the same time. And you have to have an eye out for details to notice this. Paks has very little internal dialogue. She is a bit simple minded, perhaps. When presented with some knew piece of knowledge she often expresses that she had never thought about this before. A few times she ponders something, but usually not for long. So there's really not that much to her, unless you look a little deeper and think about how her ideals and the world she lives in clashes, and notice little comments from her friends and fellow soldiers.

The most distinct parts of Paks' personality is her morale, her loyalty, and maybe also her feminism. She is very much on the side of the good. She wants to fight for what's good and right, and she would never stay in Phelan's mercenary company if she found their campaigns and contracts immoral or wrong. This results in Paks seeing the world as very black and white. People are either "good" or "bad", in her mind, a view that is challenged by her friends, especially in a conversation in the middle of chapter 12.

I liked how Elizabeth Moon made us see the world through the simple mind of Paks, but at the same time complicate it and pull Paks' world view into question through conversations she has with others. This is nicely done.

I also like that Paks is asexual. And yes, I really think she is. She expresses several times, both in the first and second book, that she has never been interested in sex or romance, and that's just the way she feels. Asexual characters are rare, and I'm all for variation, so I really enjoyed this. At one time Paks wavers, but that's because of the wishes of someone she really cares about, not because she wants it herself. And that's another thing I really like about Paks. She's always true to herself and her own ideals. She doesn't compromise.

Strong and deep friendships are the big thing in this book, not romance.

And as a part of Paks' deep sense of justice, I really enjoyed the short, but excellent feminist speech she gives at the end of chapter 24, when she is talking to a new, male recruit that are not used to the idea of female soldiers. It's all about freedom of choice, and not just doing what's expected of your gender.

There is something special about Paks. Her naivety and simpleness. Her constant blushing. Her goodness and loyalty. Her black and white view of a world that is not at all black and white. Her lack of interest in romance is quite freeing. She has other goals than getting married and settling down. She's living her own life, true to herself. Re-reading this felt like reconnecting with an old friend.

The language, at its best, was so-so.

Using mostly telling and dialogue, the novel was often a bit distant, simply explaining what's going on without much feeling. Sometimes the language is right out clumsy, and some chapters have weirdly abrupt endings.

The dialogues are mostly ok, and is often used to inform the readers about the politics, history, geography and religion of this world. Paks is very ignorant to begin with. Born and raised in a remote village, she doesn't know much about anything except farm work and a bit of hunting when she first sets out, so I guess all the explaining and teaching is fitting and necessary, but there's just too much of it. It becomes to apparent that this also functions as a way for the author to give some basic info about this world to the reader, and unless this kind of thing is done on purpose, in a very clever way, or with some sort of meta twist, I don't like it when the author is too visible in her own text.

The linguistic shortcomings are, in my view, made up for by an interesting world, fascinating insights into a realistic military life, and some really action filled and thrilling sub-plots and events here and there. I would also like to point out that I read this novel in translation, and therefore my critique of the language might not apply to the original, English version.

I have a problem with the way this book is presented to prospective readers, and a quick read through of some of the other reviews here on GR shows I'm not the only one. It's often described as the traditional high epic fantasy story of "a chosen one" on a mission. Well. That's more true of the second and third book in the series, and even then it's very down to earth. In the first book, Paks is just a soldier. A very talented soldier, who gets to see quite a lot of adventure and battles, but still. She doesn't see herself as anyone special. She works herself slowly up from nothing. She isn't just handed a magical sword and told to save the world with it. Everything she accomplishes is hard earned, and therefore feels very rewarding.

I understand that readers going into this looking for the traditional epic fantasy, with great heroes with magical powers fighting pure evil, might be disappointed. If you go into a book with such specific expectations, and it turns out to be something different, it is natural to be disappointed. No matter how good the book might be, you will still be looking for something and not finding it. It is a shame, therefore, that the summary on the back of the book is so misleading.

I must admit that if this book wasn't a re-reading of a favorite from my teenage years, I might judge it more harshly. The quality of the language means a lot more to me now than it did then. I would still like to recommend it to fantasy lovers, and I hope this review can ensure that some readers, at least, pick it up with the right expectations, and avoids the dissonance that wrong expectations can create between reader and text.
Profile Image for Lorena.
1,016 reviews182 followers
July 2, 2020
This book (the first in a trilogy, which is also collected in an omnibus) is interesting to me primarily for its description of the main character's military training. The author is a former Marine, and as such, her creation of a female warrior has more credibility than most. However, as technically accurate as this series may be in terms of military training and strategy, it is seriously lacking in emotional resonance. The main character, Paksenarrion (Paks), never really connects emotionally with anyone else. We are told that certain other characters are her "friends," but why is a mystery. Mostly they seem to be gregarious people who adopt her without much encouragement from Paks herself, and then rapidly get themselves killed off so that the relationships don't have to develop very far. More than anything, Paks seems almost like a child. Her closest relationships are with older men who treat her in a fatherly fashion. She spends most of the series very passively taking orders from these father figures, and from others. While we are assured in brief passages that she is learning all sorts of things, her understanding of things like politics and philosophy never seems to progress beyond that of a child. She is also asexual, and experiences no sexual urges or attractions whatsoever (note that this is not a criticism of asexuality as an orientation, or of featuring asexual characters in books - in this case, it is simply another example of how this particular character makes no connections to or relationships with other people, of any kind).

Also, I didn't care for the role Paks' faith played in these books. We are supposed to believe that her strong faith plays a large role in the final conflict in the series, but the only reason she HAS faith at all is because her gods have appeared to her repeatedly and bestowed all sorts of gifts upon her. It doesn't strike me as all that remarkable to develop an unshakeable faith in a god that is constantly showing up and actively helping you out.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,923 reviews386 followers
February 17, 2017
3.5 stars

I really wanted to like this tale more than I actually did. It had moments of greatness—as when Paksenarrion fights off her father and leaves home to join the army. (Although, as the daughter of a pig farmer, I will tell you that there are worse men that you could end up married to).

I read this book while on holiday and it always seemed that I was interrupted right in mid-battle, left wondering for many hours how things would turn out! That said, the battles were certainly not gritty like those described by Glen Cook in his Dark Company series. These were battlefield-lite. And although Paks is injured several times and has bad things happen to her, she leads the charmed life of the fantasy heroine.

What was refreshing was having a female main character who was competent with a weapon and interested in tactics. Now, how much is her own doing and how much is she being assisted by somewhat magical influences? This supernatural stirring in her life puts me in mind of Joan of Arc….

Book 241 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.
Profile Image for JAIME.
379 reviews238 followers
May 14, 2015
I love Elizabeth Moon's chill style writing.

It's all wonderful and detailed. Her heroine never does anything idiotic. But, that's not to say she doesn't find herself in 'situations'. She is sweet, but not a walk over. She is tough, but not Kate Daniels. Honest and humble, she should be boring. But she really isn't.

Sheepfarmer's Daughter tells the story of a girl who ditches home to join the army after her father tries to marry her off to a pig farmer.

There is a lot of marching, and fighting, and marching - a bit of looting, being on the run and bad guys. But really, it's all about the storytelling, and I happen to think Ms. Moon's storytelling is wonderful.

Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews264 followers
March 17, 2020

The idea seems great but the actual plot progress was underwhelming. The intro was nice but it is followed by boring description of training and then smashes flat into a brutal beating. Descriptions sound like she was raped but that was denied later in the story, but the details of the investigations make it pretty clear she was raped. Then a healer checks her physically and states that she was not raped. Hmm, blood on thighs. Ok. There's a hint of a great story but it doesn't get a lot of light because most of it comes across as a flat recitation of events/facts.
Profile Image for Hanne.
224 reviews318 followers
April 20, 2014
This one is old school military fantasy: we open with a young adult dreaming of a career as a soldier, signing up in a mercenary squad, and what follows is a lot of drilling, marching, sieging and fighting. I will admit to reading very fast over some of the fighting scenes, because they weren’t always very interesting. But some of the things that happened in between did hold my attention.
There is a lot of foreshadowing on who/what Paksenarrion will become. We open with her father telling the tale, and along the way a lot of information is sown inside book 1, so it can bloom in the next books (I hope). This is clearly the entry point of a trilogy, not a book that can stand on its own.

Apart from a little too much information on fighting and training, the element I missed the most was a cast of important characters. Many of these 80s fantasy books have a fellowship, but this is pretty much Paksennarrion’s journey. There is a gigantic cast of secondary characters, but there is only one focal point and not one of the other characters seem to be anything else than décor.

There are things I do like though: one thing in particular is the absence of romance. Don’t get me wrong, a well done romance can enrich a story, but I hate this latest trend where every book has to have a romance storyline buried in it, even if it doesn’t make much sense. So I applaud Elizabeth Moon for having a feisty girl as a protagonist, and not have her back down or waylaid for any man.
Profile Image for Belinda.
1,331 reviews181 followers
June 20, 2018
5 stars - English hardcover - I have dyslexia -
Read this book while on holidays in England. It was raining cats and dogs, so a great escape for me to find another heroïne going her own course. 😀🍀😀🍀
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,849 followers
October 6, 2014
See my review of the omnibus edition The Deed of Paksenarrion. I love these books and highly recommend them!

Let me say again that I love these books and can't recommend them highly enough. I read these books years ago, have read them several times, and will in all probability reread them again and again.

This is one of those series (I think of them as a single book) where when I run on someone who doesn't like them or doesn't get them I am as the saying goes... flummoxed.

I find these full of life lessons as well as one of the best most involving stories I've ever read. I give them 5+ stars and as I've said before can't recommend them highly enough.

I have recently reread these and am almost impelled to come here, update this to say, don't miss this one. These are at the top of my favorites list. About very few books do I say, I love love this book (or these books), but in this case I do. Again, my highest recommendation. This trilogy always leaves me with a longing for more. Very few books are this good.

Update: I want to add this as a friend mentioned how misleading the above synopsis is. The first line is diametrically opposite to an actual description of Paks' attitude. She never thinks herself something special....even when others do. She's the most humble and hard working of soldiers and sees herself as a common fighter, and is happy to be so.

As noted I love these books and find the synopsis annoying.... Don't miss the book. Really.
Profile Image for Traci.
188 reviews80 followers
January 31, 2012
First half low to mid three stars.
Second half mid to high three stars.

I liked it. It just wasn't a book that "spoke" to me. I found it a little clinical. Cold. Paks wants to be soldier with every fiber of her being but I never once felt that desire. None of the characters really came to life for me.

I did like that this book's heroine was a strong young woman who knew her own mind. If it had been written today she would have followed her first love into the army where she would meet another young man who would quickly become her best friend and maybe something more. Or she would be a shy wallflower who enlisted to escape a villainous family and slowly fall in love with the boy who bullies her from day one....

I really liked the action once the second half kicked in. I liked the honest portrayal of battle. People die. Sometimes it's ugly. Often times it's senseless. And many times it is a matter of luck and chance.

There was enough I liked that I will continue the series.

I would recommend this to most fans of fantasy. And if you find the first half too boring and tame for you stick with it.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,678 followers
January 28, 2011
I really, really liked this book when I read it in high school. I loved the idea of a history of a hero, from her humble beginnings on through her greatest deeds. I remember Pakse and her companions so well, and I thought the descriptions of army life: recruitment, arming, training, were well done, with just enough detail to be thorough, not enough to drag the story down. There was no rush to spit the story out, it had clearly been plotted for three books, and I looked forward to two and three. And then, to my tragedy, I could not find them! I bought this book, but the one and only bookstore in my area didn't have two or three, and weren't sure they could order them. I found that I could get #3 through interlibrary loan, but I wanted to read two first! I went to college, looked around, could find many copies of this book, occasionally #3, but no #2! Infuriating! Writing this review has just renewed my resolve! I shall find #2 and #3, and I shall reread this book and then the rest! I SHALL!
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
June 15, 2010
4.5 stars. An excellent beginning to what looks to be a superb epic fantasy series. Elizabeth Moon writes a great story with well-drawn, interesting characters and a tightly focused plot that grabs you from the beginning of the novel and never stalls. That is tough to do in a 500+ page book, but I was engaged the entire time. Highly recommended!!!

Winner: Compton Crook Award.
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books305 followers
November 2, 2016
I’m reading this in the omnibus edition, entitled ‘The Deed of Paksenarrion’, but I’ll review each of the the three volumes separately, for convenience. The series tells the story of Paksenarrion Dorthansdottir, or Paks for short, who runs away from her humble home to join Duke Phelan's army as a way of avoiding a marriage being forced on her by her father. This first book is about her training, her first battles and her involvement in the Duke's various military enterprises, and although it starts slowly with a lot of detail about training regimes and the like, it builds in time to a much pacier level. From the middle onwards I found it completely absorbing.

The author doesn't shy away from the realities of military life. There are plenty of details about the privations of life on the march, the difficulties inherent in a mixed-sex army and the chaos of the battlefield. There are plenty of deaths, too. But on the whole, this isn't in the gritty realism school of fantasy; there is little gore or graphic descriptions of injuries, for example. I did wonder sometimes just how this particular army would work. It's a wonderful idea to have women fully integrated and treated identically, and although I squirmed every time Paks had to strip off alongside the men, I daresay that's just a cultural issue. But I did wonder how they coped with periods on those long, mud-filled marches.

It's traditional in this type of story for the main character to become a hero - acquiring unusual skills with weapons, for instance, or showing improbable levels of strategic thinking, and rapidly graduating to a leadership role. This book avoids that cliché. Paks is exactly what she seems - a sheepfarmer's daughter who simply wants to be a good soldier. She makes mistakes, she has weaknesses and prejudices, and in tricky situations she often depends on others more experienced than her, such as during the flight with Canna and Saben. She’s good at what she does, but it comes from determination and intense training rather than special abilities. She does heroic deeds, but again, it’s not because of some unusual quality or because she seeks out risky missions, but rather that she doesn’t shy away from such situations when they arise, seeing them as just a part of her job. I liked Paks very much. Her self-effacing quiet bravery and unwillingness to stand out from the rest of her cohort are not just admirable qualities in themselves, but rare in fantasy, where every main character these days seems brash and opinionated. And then there’s her unquestioning loyalty to the Duke, her employer, even when she discovers that his soldiers are not quite the heroic idealists she aspired to but something much more pragmatic, being simple mercenaries.

I very much liked the way the world is revealed slowly, in small increments, with names and places and even religions tossed into conversations without explanation. It’s hard to grasp what’s going on, sometimes, and even with the map I couldn’t always follow the journeys, but it gave the world an unusual depth. There’s not a great deal of magic in view, but it clearly permeates all the various societies, and where it does turn up, it’s used very effectively. I found the Marshall and the paladin, with their beliefs which so disturbed the Duke, absolutely compelling, and I would have liked to know more about them. Every scene with the Marshall was dynamite, in fact. This aspect is something Moon does brilliantly - weaving a complex mesh of religion and magic and a variety of belief systems into the story without ever resorting to dry infodumps.

Some grumbles. The names are difficult. I applaud the author’s efforts to demonstate the social and cultural diversity of the Duke’s soldiers and the various others they encounter by having a range of different types of names, but it made it very difficult to work out who was who. Neither rank nor gender was obvious from most names, and I constantly forgot whether a character was a captain or a private or from a different band altogether. More than once I was startled to find that a long-running character was not the gender I had assumed (shame on me, I suppose, for making assumptions at all, but I do like to know, as a minimum, whether a character is male or female). The sheer number of characters made this problem worse. And if character names were tricky, places and groups were even worse. Occasionally, when discussing who might turn up for the next battle, I’d see something like this: A and B have to stay home because they’re threatened by C, and D has to defend E, but F and G have said they’ll come, but then after what happened at H they may not, and you can never count on I and J... Without taking notes, it’s just impossible to follow this sort of thing. One other grumble: I liked that events were seen through Paks’ eyes, which meant gaps and missing information and changes without explanation, but there were times when a little more information would have been nice. We never did learn, for instance, what punishment, if any, was handed out to Stephi (or if it was mentioned, I missed it).

The ending is wonderful. Yes, there’s a dramatic series of battles, but ultimately it’s about Paks and her beliefs, and about right and wrong, and being true to your ideals, and I can’t fault it. This is a terrific story of one person, a humble and very likeable woman, just doing a job she enjoys, and finding herself by no choice of her own drawn into bigger and more important matters. I liked the details of her life as a soldier, which was never sugar-coated, but also never resorted to overly-graphic grimness. I liked that she didn’t want marriage or a lover, and that was accepted without question (too often authors think a female protagonist has to have a sex life). This was very close to five stars for me, but the confusing number of characters and names, which made some events hard to follow, and the slow start, keep it to a very good four stars.
Profile Image for Sheila.
973 reviews86 followers
August 29, 2019
4 stars--I really liked it. This is classic high fantasy, and I'm not sure why it's not more popular. Moon writes assuredly about military life and battle, and this book focuses on action: training, marching, and fighting. Paksenarrion is a fantastic hero--noble and good, but with the flaw of recklessness. She also has an awkward side that makes her relatable.

There is an incident of attempted sexual assault that seemed out of place to me, though I understand this is a facet of military life. It's not detailed, but it is violent, so keep that in mind if you're sensitive to the subject.

There are hints in the background of cool things to come--elves, magic swords, gods, and so on. I'm looking forward to learning more about the world, as Paks herself does, in the next books.
Profile Image for Kevin Xu.
274 reviews99 followers
December 22, 2013
The first half of the book I would give it five stars with a girl in the army like the author herself with her background in Vietnam, but the second half was too predictable for me to enjoy it. My problem is the second half of the book, it was too cliche as everyone else is in trouble, and the main character somehow always avoid trouble, so that main character has to save everyone even if he or she does not have the ability, but the main character usually has the ability to.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,252 reviews69 followers
December 16, 2021
First of a series of awesome books. I think this is my 4th or 5th re-read. The series is just that good.
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
266 reviews79 followers
July 31, 2020
I think you have as fine a young warrior as I've seen. That's what I hear, as well, from all who have mentioned her. Too impulsive, perhaps, like most young fighters, but that comes as much from generosity as anything else. I think she'll go beyond a hired fighter in the ranks, if nothing breaks that will or that honesty."

A wonderful account of the early years of a hero. Told in an unusual way, it focuses on the nitty gritty realities of life in a mercenary company. At times, this slowed the story, but on the whole, I found it made for a more believable journey.

I first read the The Deed of Paksenarrion back in 2016, just as I was finishing university. I remember really enjoying it, though getting a little frustrated with the pacing at times. Paks, I remember as a solid, dependable heroine, more interested in a good job well done than heroics and theatrics. Plot-wise, I thought I'd remembered little. It turns out that I'd remembered quite a lot, I'd just misattributed most of it to Green Rider (goodness knows why). Reading it again, it all came flooding back and I was able to focus on the little details and the subtle hints that I'd missed first time around. Having recently read Surrender None for the first time, it was also interesting to compare Paks to Gird, and to see his legacy and how his legend grew after his death. Both books certainly share a fascination for military minutiae and salt of the earth protagonists.

The book begins with Paks, aged 19 and arranged to be wed, leaving home to join Duke Phelan's mercenary company in Tsaia. Here she comes under the command of Sergeant Stammel who teaches her the ropes: camp etiquette, marching and formations, horse-riding, sword work and so on. She makes friends, but also enemies and readers should note that there is a scene of attempted rape. Soon enough she's marching south, over the Dwarfmounts to Aarenis and her first military encounters.

Early on, Paks is noted for her hard-work and humble attitude. She's good with a sword but not unrealistically so. Her first truly distinguishing moment comes when she and two friends escape an attack by Siniava, a brutal mercenary leader, and travel seven days cross-country, tracking the enemy and scavenging for food, in order to warn the Duke of an imminent attack. It is also around this time that Paks is given a Girdish amulet which, inexplicably, serves to warn and protect her in times of direst need. Talent and "luck", together with her stolid persona, single Paks out again and again, and no one doubts that great deeds are to come.
"Something is moving you, which I do not understand, and I think you hardly realise. You may be called to leave your Duke, at least for a time. If so, I hope you will understand the need."

If Paks is anything, she is real. Smart enough and keen to learn, but not without her naivetés. She sees the world in black and white - good and bad - and wants to fight for one against the other. A natural leader, she cares for those under her command and manages to walk that fine line between approachability and leadership by example. In some distant part of her mind, she dreams of leading a company one day, but, assuming this unachievable, is happy to follow those in command and take her promotions where she's earned them.

Aside from Paks, my favourite characters were Saben, a fellow recruit and Siniava escapee, and Sergeant Stammel. I appreciated that the friendship that grew between Paks and Saben was allowed to remain just that - a friendship. Paks is asexual - the first asexual character I've ever come across in fiction - and Saben respects her wishes, staying loyally by her side and supporting her at every turn. It makes a refreshing break from the usual romances that come to consume a plot.

Stammel, meanwhile, is something of a father figure to the recruits under him. He knows their ins and outs and trusts them, even when others bring their trust into question. He goes above and beyond his duties to train and nurture his men, ensuring that they can not only fight, but also manage the money they win fighting. And he listens - when times get tough and shit happens, he's there, with a shoulder for you to cry on and soft word that things will be ok.

Duke Kieri Phelan, himself, also deserves a mention here. Known as the Fox, he runs a respectable company that prides itself on fighting hard but also respecting the rules of combat and dealing fairly with the locals. He welcomes both men and women to the band and they are treated equally. He leads from the front and holds the respect and admiration of his men. He has a temper but works hard to moderate it and isn't afraid to give praise where praise is due. After squiring with Aliam Halveric in his youth, he has ties to other companies and often works with them to better achieve his goals. Some question his right to the title of Duke, but those who matter don't care. This is important later if I remember rightly.

Characters aside, Paks’ world also includes non-human creatures - though we see little of them in this book - and humans capable of magic. I’d forgotten this from my first read which is odd, on the one hand, considering what a pivotal role magic comes to play, but not so surprising, on the other hand, considering that so few characters are able to wield it. Largely linked to one religion or another, we see magic wielded for good, healing those wounded in battle, and magic wielded for evil, to torture or harm. If I remember rightly, we see a lot more of this in the books to come. On the whole, though, Paks’ world is much like any other pseudo-medieval-European fantasy world with its farms and its forts. Comforting but not hugely inventive.

If I had to describe the book in one word, it would be SOLID. The characters are realistic and wholesome, steady in their pursuit of their humble goals and slowly but surely transforming into the heroes we know them to be. The plot develops one step at a time and isn’t victim to the extreme emotional highs and lows of many a young adult fantasy book. And the writing is compelling whilst also delving into such detail at times that you feel you could be there, mucking in with the rest of the troops. Definitely recommend for those looking for their next epic fantasy fix.

If you like Sheepfarmer's Daughter, you might like:
Surrender None (Legacy of Gird, #1) by Elizabeth Moon The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1) by Brandon Sanderson Daggerspell (Deverry, #1) by Katharine Kerr Green Rider (Green Rider, #1) by Kristen Britain Sasha (A Trial of Blood & Steel, #1) by Joel Shepherd
Profile Image for Malum.
2,289 reviews131 followers
May 14, 2021
An ever-so-slightly above average military fantasy with a Mary Sue main character that is literally protected by a deus ex machina.

The weirdest thing is that this series is obviously based on D&D and Moon doesn't even bother to hide it in the slightest. People have classes like fighter, cleric, and paladin, and I have heard that moon unabashedly rips off Gygax's D&D adventure The Village of Hommlet in the next volume.
Profile Image for Charlie.
44 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2022
Not an easy starter for the trilogy; I got stuck at chapter 30 for a while, then managed to end it out of sense of duty and read thru the whole trilogy in the end.

This first chapter set the main flaws that will scout us thru the whole saga:

- the plot is extraordinarily predictable from day one: that's fine, the protagonist has to live a great adventure, but she is simply a chick who is saved by some ex machina deity without any particular meaning. She just did what she has been told, the end.

- there is no gray in this world: the villains wore black, are evil, absolutely terribles. The good guys wear gold, are clear, clean. Either 1 or 0.. It feels like a video game where the good guys have to kill "the enemies," as they are called throughout the book, just for the plot to happens.

- the main character is super flat: you don't understand why she does what she does. She has extremely childish characterizations that don't change throughout the book and that are never explored.

- the events happen "because they do", and are not explained in the book: they just happen because elizabeth moon has decided that she has to write 1000 pages out of them.

- there's a magnifying glass set on how many potholes there are in the street, but friends and characters literally die in three lines, or entire months are skipped, just like that.

- you invest 10 pages explaining 10 minutes, and then it goes to "three months later" and you don't understand what the hell happened.

- you go from one battle to another, and you struggle to figure out when one starts and when the other ends.

- there is an annoying sense of wanting to make Christian morality, then let's face it, easy to believe in a god that every 5 seconds comes and saves your ass as happens to the protagonist.

- the main character is a woman but in reality this aspect is never explored: she has no gender, no mentality, no distinguishing features. As far as we are concerned she might as well be an amoeba. She doesn't interact in the world around her as a woman, she seems to be passing through.

- I feel like Elizabeth Moon has some unresolved issues with sex: rape as main story angle and a man got castrated as a side quest, WTF

I finally read the whole trilogy and reviewed here on Goodreads all the books and the trilogy itself:

Book I
Book II
Book III
Profile Image for Tina.
1,780 reviews289 followers
June 27, 2019
I was reading the newest book in the Paks series,Oath of Fealty and it made me very nostalgic to go back and re-read this.

I read this book for the first time back in 1994, I think it was. Some friends and I were holidaying up along the east coast and we stopped in Martha's Vineyard. There is a really cool Hostel there in the middle of the woods (the outdoor shower is awesome!). I didn't want to carry too many books around so I'd only had a couple on me and was being stingy about how much I was reading, parcelling out a few pages here and there (man, what i wouldn't have done for an e-reader back then!)

At the Hostel they had a bookshelf and they encouraged people to leave/take books. This book was on the shelf and I sat down and started to read it. And was instantly transported.

Paks is a Sheepfarmer's daughter who didn't want to marry the Pig farmer her father had dowered her to. With the stories of glory and fighting that her cousin had told them about being a soldier ringing in her ears, Paks runs away and joins the Duke Phelan's Mercenary company.

This book is military high fantasy in it's best form. There are great scenes of training, learning, fighting and soldierly camaraderie. There is also magical peril and a great, major big evil that the company fight against. In the meantime, Paks makes friends, loses friends, and becomes a good soldier who manages to stand out in ways she would have never considered.

I finished the book that night, and was bereft because I knew there was a second book but it wasn't anywhere on that shelf. Darnit. The minute, I could, I got the second book.

Thus began my love affair with the Paks series. I think over the years, I've read the trilogy about three times. They never get old and still feel like I am reading them new again. Great book!
Profile Image for Rob.
521 reviews36 followers
May 26, 2013
...So what does that leave us with. Sheepfarmer's Daughter is essentially five hundred pages of Paks going through the motions of becoming a mercenary and finding out how to be a good soldier, a lot of which is no more interesting that my average day at the office. She does what she is told, never seriously questions what she is doing and turns out to be good at pretty much everything she is required to do. In short, neither Paks, or the events described in the novel really managed captivate me. It is readable but I wouldn't go as far as calling it good.  I understand that Sheepfarmer's Daughter was Moon's first published novel. One can only hope she has improved plotting and characterization since.

Full Random Comments review
Profile Image for Luce.
521 reviews
July 16, 2017
A re-read. This is the first book of a trilogy. An epic story of Paksenarrion (Paks), who runs away from her family to escape an arranged marriage to a pig farmer. She joins mercenary army and becomes a hero many times over.

I have the same problem I had the first time reading it - Her mercenary company travels throughout the book and for the life of me I could never picture in my head where they were. I dug out my old paperback that includes a map - (later I found it online) but it doesn't have enough detail. At least mark her home town.

Good book though. Eventually I'll read the second book, if I remember correctly was my favorite.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,975 reviews54 followers
August 30, 2022
I'm shelving this as Fantasy. This one moved kind of slow so at times I found myself having to reel in my wandering thoughts. It wasl also heavy on the dialogue. Now that is usually a big plus for me, but not so here. It needed a little more of an "editing hand" for me. There was so much minutia that felt tedious to get through. That is never my favorite.

What I did like was the strong female MC in this. She was great....at times a little too perfect in all of her innocence but still...she had an interesting set of skills...and some great friends. So 3 stars.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,584 reviews403 followers
March 29, 2010
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

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.
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