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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: Kings of the North 
7th-Apr-2011 06:02 pm
Today to Read
The Deed of Paksenarrion series continued into book five with Kings of the North. It was definitely a bridge book, from Oath of Fealty to... wherever we are going from here. I enjoyed it mightily. I am enjoying the evolution of Duke-now-King Phelan, and the maturation of all of the characters that we are revisiting from the young adventure novels published twenty-cough years ago. These books are heavier, and a bit harder to follow, than the original series. But we are older, more patient, and looking for the meatier story that Moon is writing these days. So it's a very good time to sit down with this second series and dig back into the intrigue and interest.

In Kings of the North, the story continues about King Phelan dealing with the upcoming Pargunese invasion. Duke Verrakki is working on re-establishing her domain without the influences of evil and priests of darkness, while her King Mikeli has much the same issues as any new boy crowned by his elders. Unfortunately, all of them are learning about old plots now coming to fruition, and discovering that their new friendships might be too fragile to deal with the stresses of war. Their allies are under strain, and their houses are not unified. It's a stressful time to be in charge of battle preparations, and that's the point around which the plot revolves.

The odd thing about this book was that it felt like Elizabeth Moon had finally gotten back into playing the game with Oath of Fealty, and now wanted to incorporate the entire deck from Deed of Paks, Expansion Set 1 into Kings of the North. The new character cards got shuffled in and then dealt out with precision towards emphasizing how much the king has changed. (He's a super-powered half-elf now!) Happily, it wasn't just Dorrin who got to glow in the dark; everyone leveled up this time around. Everyone gained a new relationship, skill, magical power, insight, or possession. And sometimes, major characters gained more than one of the above.

In order to keep up with all of that character development, the plot bounced all over the continent. Princesses dashed around on horseback in the dark. Sailors ran through the treetops. Nice guys got slaughtered for effect. The gnomes showed back up - twice - and played their Girdish law word games in the second appearance. Even the Level 20 Plutonium Dragon card got played. And no, I'm NOT KIDDING.

It was great to watch the action get faster and the plot get tighter. I definitely recommend it. I can't wait for where Moon is taking this next.


-- New-to-me books read in 2011 (as opposed to re-reads) --

January
Little Dee vol 2
Little Dee vol 3
Unusual Suspects
Harvest Moon
The Black Stallion (yes, I know, I should have read it with Black Beauty)
Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard's Name, with a pre-finished commentary here
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Fang Bangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love
Must Love Hellhounds
Truthseeker

February
Dark and Stormy Knights
Tortall and Other Lands
River Marked (2/28 - it arrived a day early)

March
Questionable Content, vol 1
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Lifeblood
Magic Bites
Skinwalker, A Jane Yellowrock Novel
Running with the Pack
Magic Burns
Blood Cross

April
"Skyblaze" Adventures in the Liaden Universe #17
Kings of the North
... Battlestations
... Wise Man's Fear


-- Books abandoned rather than completed in 2011 --

February
Sing the Four Quarters, by Tanya Huff



-- Books Still in Progress --
These are books that I haven't totally given up on, I've just... put them aside... for now. And gee, look at how many of them are non-fiction!
The Brand Within
Gamestorming
If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails
Swords and Dark Magic
Battlestations
Wise Man's Fear
Comments 
7th-Apr-2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review! I've been eyeballing this book (The Deed of Paksenarrion was my favourite new-to me book of last year, because I am late to this game) and was somewhat tentative about trying it out, but I think I'll give it a shot, now. :)
8th-Apr-2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
You might want to read the comments below yours, too. Just because I enjoyed it does not mean it was a fantastic book.
(Deleted comment)
8th-Apr-2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was frustrating by the lack of answers, and the use of magic to hammer square pegs into round holes. I appreciate that Moon still managed to let human hands turn the plot, but only barely. She is hanging onto the basic plot mechanism that magic is for holding people still while traitors stab them (or a parallel application), but the bit with the flaming arrows was a bit much.

My hope is that she is building something bigger, and that it will be Keiri, Mikeli, Dorrin, Arcolin, and Aliam who resolve the story. I do NOT want to see the other races, powers, or gods to be the ones interfering. The first three books did quite well with the gods visiting Paks (or fighting against her through agents) and then letting her turn the plot around through her own words and deeds.
8th-Apr-2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
I wasn't as thrilled with Kings of the North as I was with Oath of Fealty. As skill_grl says, I think there was more magic than is justified by the world Moon has built. I also thought there was an overload of deus ex machina in this book. That is, perhaps, an unfair criticism for a world where the gods/saints interfere on a daily basis, but the characters weren't even given a chance to try to fix the final challenge. I'm hoping she's building to something good, not petering out as her inspiration wanes.
8th-Apr-2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
I agree. The end of the book with the Level 20 Plutonium Dragon business was too cramped, too action-by-implication, and far too full of "I know best and I'm not explaining." I hope that she lets the humans catch up soon, or the next book is going to be a Gird/Falk vs. Arachnya/Lairt smackdown, and there won't be any room for mere mortals.
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