Ever since I first discovered this series written by Elizabeth Moon she has struck me as an author who goes in the direction she wants with her novels, even if that might not be what satisfies the majority of readers. The Paladin's Legacy series is coming to a close in this fifth book in that portion of the series and readers will not find fairy tale happily ever after endings for all the characters. If you've read all the novels you know the earliest books began with the three novels contained in the volume called The Deed Of Paksenarrion: The Deed of Paksenarrion omnibus (The deed of Paksenarrion Series) and has continued in more recent years with the books in the Paladin's Legacy series, starting with Oath Of Fealty: Paladin's Legacy: Book One. At the beginning of this book there is an Author's Note in which Moon states positively that this last book is not the place for readers new to the series to begin. I certainly could not agree more. Because this is the final book all the characters spread out over the previous novels are gathered here. They have lengthy histories, diverse magical abilities, and different religious beliefs which Moon makes no effort to explain in detail in this novel so it is best to at least go back to Oath of Fealty and read forward from there if you are just beginning. I consider myself a fan of Moon's writing and this fantasy world and yet I had a hard time remembering specific incidents from other books which were now being brought forward and acted on. There are many, many characters and kingdoms and cities and elves and gnomes and different names for evil doers; it can be a little confusing even for firm fans when it is all presented at one time in one novel.
Each of the previous books in this series has had a good versus evil concept at its core. This novel has those two concepts acted upon in many different locations and taking on many different forms all at the same time. I have not read Liar's Oath, Luap's story (and the book Moon says most readers don't like), so meeting Luap in this novel was an interesting experience. I'm glad I had read the note from the author before he made his appearance or I wouldn't have understood the way he was treated. All the major characters from the previous novels are given roughly the same emphasis, but Dorrin Verrakai seems to me to be the pivotal character around which the fate of all the others revolves. What she does and the choices she makes advances the actions of all the other characters. Not every character will emerge with a clear-cut ending to their story. The final chapter can be read to seem as if there might be more to come. If that should be the case, I don't think it will include some characters from this series.
This novel was an intense reading experience for me. I could not sit down and breeze through it; I had to pay attention to all the details. The content here is multi-layered and there are so many fronts on which the action is occurring that I had to pay close attention so I could keep it all straight. I'm truly sorry to see this series end, but I think Moon did a good job of winding it all down. There will probably be criticism of some story arc's seeming to be unfinished, but what would have been enough to satisfy everyone? I will just have to be content with what has been written and probably begin reading it all over again from the beginning.
I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are my own.
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