Friday, April 8, 2011

Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon

Oath of Fealty
It's been far too long, but Moon has finally returned to the place some of us came to know and love her work, in the world of Paksennarion, Paladin of Gird. The early trilogy was just incredible, and Moon's voice has been sorely missed in the world of fantasy while she pursued her SF story line (those were good, too). Given the length of this re-debut, I thought perhaps it was going to be a one-shot deal, but after finishing it, I think it's just setting the stage for great things to come.

Moon also avoided one of my pet peeves, dropping back into a familiar story a hundred years later, with only brief mention of old friends, as she begins this story within days of the end of Oath of Gold. She skillfully weaves just enough of "what has gone before" into this tale to make it easy for new readers, who are not familiar with Pak and her friends, to feel comfortable with the background, but not more than would be irritating or repetitive for old fans. It felt just right to me, as it has been a couple of years since I re-read the earlier books, and with just a little prompting, I fell right into the world again.

Duke Kieri Phelan, having survived the Verrakai assassins' and Pargunese soldiers' attack, has arrived in Lyonya to take his place as its rightful long-lost king. In his stead, as leader of his mercenary soldiers, he has left Captain Arcolin, his faithful right hand, who may or may not be confirmed as Duke in his place, but who will do his best to keep his cohorts employed and fed, now that Kieri is gone for good.

In Tsaia, Prince Mikeli is attacked by another group of Verrakai assassins, wielding forbidden mage powers, but is rescued by his friends. He commands that the rest of the Verrakai clan be rounded up and arrested to stand trial, except for a disowned woman of the clan, Dorrin, who is also a captain in Kieri's mercenary force. He appoints her Duke of Verrakai and sends her to her ancestral home to tie up loose ends and destroy or remove whatever evil works of magic the family have set in place for their enemies.

Arcolin takes a cohort south for an employment contract in Cortes Vonja, where he and Phelan fought against evil sorcery and foreign invasion together. The peace they left behind has not held too well, and he begins by fighting brigands, but soon discovers that there is more beneath the surface in the southern provinces that may require some cleansing.

Paksennarion is still alive and well, spending some time in Lyonya at first, then moving on as the gods move require her as a paladin to do. I imagine she'll play a fair part in the story at some point, but for now she appears to be getting a bit of a breather after her arduous trials.

Moon moves smoothly between the story lines, setting the scene, in my opinion, for a whole new set of adventures in this well-beloved world. I found myself a bit teary-eyed at times as she manipulated her characters' emotions and mine. The only minor bit of irritation for me was that all of her heroes are just far too stinkin' competent and incorruptible to be true. I borrowed this from the library, but I'll have to purchase a copy for the collection soon.

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