Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu May 31 18:22:15 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #61

%T Surrender None: The Legacy of Gird
%A Elizabeth Moon
%I Bean
%D June 1990
%O paperback, US$4.50
%P 530
%G 0-671-69878-8

This is Elizabeth Moon's prequel to the widely praised Deeds Of Paksenarrion trilogy (Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Oath Of Gold, Divided Allegience). Those gave us the story of Paksenarrion, the sheepfarmer's daughter who became a paladin of Gird.

In Surrender None, we are given the life of Gird -- Gird Strongarm, Gird the Liberator, the farmer-general who rallied the peasantry of Finaarenis against their cruel and decadent rulers, and in doing so founded Paksenarion's Fellowship of Gird and lived an example in courage and justice that rang down centuries to her later time.

Elizabeth Moon is still growing as a writer; this is a better book than the Paksenarrion trilogy was, despite its prequel nature. Paksenarrion was essentially a one-dimensional character, and later in the trilogy Moon's emphasis on her awareness of her special mission made her seem something of a self-righteous prig. Gird is kept far more human; the characters around him, too, are a little more complex and better-drawn than the vivid and engaging but rather obvious ones of the earlier book.

The world-building gift, the fine hand for detail that Moon displayed previously is here in full measure. What a delight it is to see one of Gird's people speaking matter-of-factly of his great-grand-da's flint sickles and knives, and have been unobtrusively given enough other details that an entire picture instantly falls into place of a people lifted out of a Neolithic Age not quite like ours by their painful contact with the magelords, but not themselves quite aware of the magnitude of the change. This is scenery with depth!

Once again a major theme for ex-marine Moon is the ways in which the art of war both depends on and transforms the character of the soldier and the people he moves among. Her armies, almost uniquely in fantasy, have to worry about infrastructure -- will the land, the peasants they defend, feed them? Can they maintain decent sanitation? Where will the weapons come from? History was like this for real commanders, and Moon's effort lends a gritty realism to sequences that might otherwise fail in gorgeous but conventional ways.

This time around, though, we get what is essentially a farmer's view of the world rather than a soldier's. Paksenarrion's mercenaries dealt with each other and the occasional noble or general. They renounced any tie to their birth homes to be soldiers. Gird's troops, by contrast, are farmers first and last, peasants defending their land against invaders. Gird's from-the-bottom view of Paksenarrion's world is quite different in tone, filtered through a different and kinder set of loyalties. The contrast is great, and speaks well for Moon's eventual range as a mature writer.

This book can be read independently of The Deeds of Paksenarrion; in fact (unlike too many thin prequels) it really would work to read it first, then follow with the trilogy. It's not quite award material, but the field could use more craftsmanship of this calendar and I'm sure fantasy fans will find it a satisfying read.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu May 31 18:22:15 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>