If you are reading this blog you are a book lover. I'm sure of it. And if, like the Fictionistas, you have certain all time favorites, you will understand my absolute geek-out at the news that Elizabeth Moon has returned to the world she created for Paksenarrion to pen a new book, more than 15 years after I fell mindlessly in love with her writing.
Yes. Like... the book changed my life. It's the kind of fantasy people kept talking about but in strictly unicorn-mythology. Everyone KNEW what great fantasy "in the style of Tolkien" should look like. Everyone had the image right there. I could describe "heir to middle earth" to anyone who asked, but like a unicorn, I'd never seen it, touched it, experienced it first hand.
And then came Paks. The first book in the original trilogy, Sheepfarmer's Daughter, came out in 1988. I remember seeing it on shelves but not picking it up until the other two had been written and around for a bit. Divided Allegiance came out in 1988 as well, and Oath of Gold a year later, I believe. I caved and bought all three before taking off for a long weekend retreat that would require me to be silent and still for 48 hours.
I entered the retreat on Friday. I was a rabid Elizabeth Moon fan on Monday.
RABID. And when she left fantasy after doing a second trilogy prequel to this series, settled in to write very good science fiction for several years, I actually stalked her online and wrote her a long, fangirly, pleading letter. Bless her a million times over, she even emailed me back, thanked me, and explained that the world-building was demanding and so forth. She was incredibly kind to explain anything at all to me.
So why is this book amazing? It has a female epic hero. It explores courage, good, evil, choices, forgiveness, redemption, and honor. And the female is celibate. And nobody gets any girl. And I couldn't put it down. Plowed through all three of the small paperbacks and have worn out two of the larger, trade-sized paperback republications in one volume. In fact, I liked the UK cover better and bought it, too... that was the cover I posted above.
Even contemporary fiction requires world building. We create a place for our characters to live. This book... sigh. What she did here-- I felt, at the conclusion of the first novel, like I would recognize any single stone she had written. A soldier's life became part of my brain. Tromping through mud on the road to war was embedded in my consciousness. And I felt, too, the exhilaration of a young girl who ran away to become a soldier yearning for excitement... and discovering the ugly truth of her dream.
My favorite thing about these novels, though, is that they take a very honest and beautiful look at both faith and free will. I like to recommend them to younger readers because one of the most valuable lessons Paksenarrion learns is to question, trust herself, and listen to her heart. I've given the large trade version of the trilogy to many, many beloved young people as graduations gifts. It's the perfect "enter the world with your eyes open" book.
So imagine how overjoyed I am to know that early next month a new book will come out set in Paks' world, featuring the leaders she came to admire and defend (with a small cameo from Paks) in their own journeys. I'm literally drooling. Like... don't tell any of the cool people... but when I got the alert in my email about it and followed the link with blood draining from my brain, I actually teared up a weenie bit.
It's hero worship and I know it. A few writers in my life have meant that much to me: Terry Pratchett, Ms. Moon, and a few others. I'm not even embarrassed to admit it because I know, as a writer, how much we all want that. Not the fangirly dork stuff... just to have somebody say "your books mean so much to me."
So I was having a very bad week, and had a terrible day Thursday. But Friday came and went, and Saturday dawns glorious... because one of my heroes is delivering the goods. I know when Elizabeth Moon sat down to write Oath of Fealty she wasn't thinking of me... but I'm thinking of her with an incredibly grateful heart as I await the delivery of it into my greedy, greedy hands.