Paksenarrion — Paks for short — is somebody special She knows it, even if nobody else does yet No way will she follow her father's orders to marry the pig farmer down the road She's off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again.And so her adventure begins the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost ruler to his throne.Here is her tale as she lived it.

10 thoughts on “Sheepfarmer's Daughter

  1. carol. carol. says:

    Like a microscope on a game safari, Sheepfarmer's Daughter focuses on exactly the wrong details. The classic epic fantasy is notable for a common-born female lead, Paks, and the focus on her life after she joins a private military company. I enjoyed the writing style and the quality, but felt I would have liked a little more character development: the times we hear Paks' inner dialogue are too far apart, and there is too much description without reflection.

    I can appreciate that the lavish details of the road are pertinent to an infantry soldier, and I give Moon credit for attempting to capture some of the necessary repetition and drills in a soldier's life. While Moon captured that sense of hard routine, I would have thought including more scenes of her bedding down on the road, discussions around the campfire, etc., could have let Paks in for some personal growth. Without it, the characters lack all but the most distinguishing of characteristics, and there are few episodes of building camaraderie, except with Saren. When a soldier is lost, it is almost meaningless, an expected casualty. Likewise, Paks remains a young, amorphous blob of a character; it is evident she is Loyal, Honest, Strong and Energetic, but she seems to spare very little thought for the dynamics of a company, the larger world, why her superiors would be confiding in her and so forth. We can see from a couple of small events that Paks is bound for Greater Things, but because Paks doesn't want to think about it, the narration doesn't.

    The plot is decent, although troubled at times by the narrative jump of "three months ago..." or "six months later..." A long section at the beginning deals with investigating an assault involving Paks, and I found it both an odd narrative choice for the beginning of a story and a relief to be spared the actual scene. (Insert feminist rant about swordswomen needing to be assaulted/raped by men). Sexuality is mentioned a couple of times after that, but then never again addressed, which seemed odd. It was clearly an issue for company members, and for her family before she ran away, but once in the company, she spends almost no time thinking about it or even acting on it. The microscope focusing in on road quality leaves giant holes where other details might lie.

    Overall, the story felt remarkable for its thoroughness and for its determination to tell the tale of an Ordinary Soldier, even if that soldier is bound to become Extraordinary. Quite frankly, it was a "it was okay" level book for me, but I rounded up due to the quality of writing.

    Cross posted at

  2. Lex Kent Lex Kent says:

    I needed a change of pace so I decided to read the first book in a three book fantasy series that I have wanted to read for a long time. I do want to make a quick note that this is not lesfic since that is what I mostly review on Goodreads. The main character appears to be asexual so there were no romances only friendships in this book.

    The story is about a young woman name Packs who escapes her family that expects her to marry the local pig farmer. Packs is really tall and had built up alot muscle from moving sheep around. She runs away to a recruiting area to join up with a band of mercenaries who fight for pay. Packs wants to be a solider and wants to fight in war and that is exactly what she will get.

    I love books with strong kickass women. This first book follows Packs from age 18-20, I believe. And while most of the action happens around Packs she doesn’t feel like a Mary Sue character. She has to overcome plenty of adversity and she doesn’t think she better than everyone. If anything she could use even more self-confidence which may come in future books.

    I would put this more in the high fantasy category than epic fantasy, but that’s just my opinion. This book is filled with excitement including plenty of battles. The book is violent but it almost feels more PG-13 violent that R rated violence. Lots of people die and plenty of bad things happen but the gore level is not shoved down your throat.

    While I do wish this book was actually in first person to really get in Packs head, I found myself to be very comfortable with Moons writing. This was over 400 pages and I’m already jonesing to immediately start book 2. If you think you might be interested in this series it is cheaper to buy it as a three book collection under The Deed of Paksenarrion, than each book separately. The link says the collection is books 3-5 just ignore that, it is the right one.

  3. Dawn Dawn says:

    My oh my... Oh my oh my oh my.

    When I started reading this, I thought I was going to love it. It had come with such high recommendations, and it sounded like it was right up my alley. I was so excited to finally have time to dive into it! Unfortunately, I was ultimately disappointed. It just didn't work for me... Try as I might, I just couldn't make myself like it.

    It was just so boring. It literally put me to sleep whenever I tried to read it. Which was great for those late nights that I just couldn't fall asleep... But not so great during my lunch break at work, or in the middle of a weekend afternoon. Seriously though.. It was beyond boring. Nothing happened! Thinking back now, I can't tell you what the book was about, other than to say it was about a chick who joined a mercenary company, marched around a bunch, acted dense a lot, and fought from time to time. So basically, what the blurb says. That's all. Just page after page of clinical descriptions of marching here and marching there. Half of the time I didn't even realize a fight had started until it was halfway over.

    And Paks.. I just didn't like her. At all. She was dense and very stand-offish. She didn't seem to develop any relationships with the other characters, with the exception of one, and that one didn't end well. For that matter, let's talk about the other characters. They were flat and interchangeable. No personality. No depth. It was just...... Blah. All around blah.

    After a while, it was impossible not to imagine the whole book being read to me in a really boring monotone. It was like someone followed Paks around and wrote down everything she did and said, and then published it all, word for word, without editing it down to the interesting or important bits.

    Suffice it to say, I guess I'm just not a fan of Paks or her deeds. I have no interest in trying the next book in the series, or reading about Paks ever again. Harsh, I know... But when you know it's not right you just have to cut the string right away, before someone gets hurt. So Paks.. This is goodbye. Have fun deeding it up, don't keep in touch.

  4. Mike (the Paladin) Mike (the Paladin) says:

    I have read and reviewed the text version of this book. My daughter got me this (and the next 2 parts of the trilogy) for Christmas this year (2010).

    I want to review this in that a wonderful book can be read by a "not so wonderful reader" and be then in audio form...not so wonderful. That isn't the case here. While not the best reader I've ever heard in an audio book Jennifer Van Dyck does a fine job on the book and only in a couple of places does she miss a cue or fail to carry over the emotion that I believe Ms. Moon wanted.

    Let me say again that I love these books and can't recommend them highly enough. I "read" these books years ago, have read them several times, and will in all probability reread and now re-listen to them again and again.

    This is one of those series (I think of them as a single book) where when I run on someone who doesn't like them or doesn't get them I am as the saying goes... flummoxed.

    I find these full of life lessons as well as one of the best most involving stories I've ever read. The audio works for me also and I (a rough, tough, macho, conservative male) find myself in tears at times during the story. Again as in the text version, 5+ stars.

    I have recently reread these and am almost compelled to come here, update this to say, don't miss this one. These are at the top of my favorites list. About very few books do I say, I love love this book, but in this case I do. Again, my highest recommendation.

  5. Evgeny Evgeny says:

    I like the main idea for the book: to see a rise of the main character from nobody to a legend in great details. From these details comes the first problem: nothing at all happens in the first half of the book, just the military training in more details than I ever cared about, like how to march with a spear.

    In the second half of the book some excitement finally comes up as well as another problem. The book is written from the main character's point of view (BTW, I challenge everybody to recall her full name: was it really necessary to make it this long and complicated?). Through the most part of the book Paks remains a lowly soldier which means there is a lot of fighting, but at no point Paks (and the reader) have no clue about the reason for this skirmish, or that mini-war; this goes on behind the scenes.

    One more problem: one - and just one - chapter of the book is written from point of view of a different person. Why? It was very disorienting.

    Conclusion: 3 stars for the idea, 1 star for execution.

  6. Werner Werner says:

    Note, March 30, 2017: I've just edited this review to reflect a change of perspective on one point, brought about by being exposed to new factual information in the four years since I wrote it.

    My wife and I are reading the entire trilogy that this volume opens together; and since I have at least one Goodreads friend who's curious about my reaction, I thought I'd review the three novels as we finish them, rather than as an omnibus volume at the end (though we're reading the omnibus volume). [Note: I subsequently reviewed the trilogy as a unit, here: .] Personally, I wasn't as taken with this one as my friends Mike and Jon were, even though (obviously) I like it; through most of the read, I'd expected to give it three stars, but a strong ending pulled it up to four.

    This trilogy is the story of a young woman (in a fantasy world) who, as a tall, strapping farm girl of eighteen years, runs away from home to escape an unwanted forced marriage, and joins a company of mercenary soldiers. The Goodreads description sounds like it's copied from a jacket blurb, and (as blurbs sometimes do) has a few inaccuracies. Most obviously, Paks does NOT think of herself as special in any way. (Any hint that she's to play a role in "restoring a king to his throne" must come in the later two books, not this one!) Also, her military service doesn't require her to abjure ever seeing her family again. (And as far as the cover goes, she rides a horse only once or twice, briefly, in this book; she's a foot soldier and doesn't own a horse.)

    Moon's literary vision here has both strengths and weaknesses (which are sometimes the converse of each other). Her world-building is very detailed; it brooks comparison with Tolkien's or, at least, Paolini's on that score. She also brings a high level of realism to the fantasy genre; as a Marine veteran, she knows a great deal about what the experience of initiation and training into a military unit is like. Indeed, other than the fact that Paks trains with a sword rather than a rifle, her life as a recruit is probably much like that of real-life modern "grunts" going through boot camp; and Moon recounts it in great detail. The realistic note continues through the book; though magic operates in this world, it doesn't appear much here. (Elves, dwarves, orcs and other such species exist, but outside of old songs and stories, Paks only hears rare references to them, or gets rarer glimpses of one; magical healing of wounds is possible, but under limitations that make it pretty rare, and certain individuals and objects associated with various religions have supernatural powers, but these usually don't materially effect the story and aren't often in view.) Realistically as well, Moon is willing to suddenly kill off characters, including characters you'll have come to like and care about --exactly the way that real-life humans may die suddenly in combat situations, whether everybody likes and cares about them or not. Characterizations here are, not surprisingly, very realistic and vivid, and this is true of many secondary and minor characters too.

    Some fantasy fans may want a higher level of magical content in their reads, and find this one too much on the "mundane" side (though I don't have a problem with this myself). Some readers won't be happy to have characters they like, and expect to play more prominent roles, killed off. A bigger problem, though, is pacing. Usually, I have a pretty high tolerance for a slow narrative pace (and the time it takes Barb and I to get through a book with me reading aloud to her, what with our limited time for this, tends to make ANY book seem slow-paced). Even so, I found this one glacially slow. Moon takes us through every aspect of "boot camp" life, every stage of every journey, every part of a siege, etc. You learn a lot about the world and the characters this way, but some scenes don't add anything along that line. There are exciting, action-filled scenes, too; but many readers would find this narrative draggy in quite a few places.

    Religion in Moon's world is polytheistic, with cults of various gods (some of whom are quite nasty) and saints; some of these, both good and evil, appear to have actual power behind them. This aspect isn't developed much in this first book, but there are indications that one sect, that of St. Gird, will play a much bigger role in the next book. Ethical insight is more in evidence here than theological. For much of the book, to be sure, Paks' character frustrated me in this regard. She's likeable enough as a person, and she does have a moral code; but she simply doesn't think about the ethics of taking human life on the battlefield in wars over things like trade or border disputes, where her company happens to be on whichever side hired them first. To her, that's just what mercenary soldiers do; it's simply a morally neutral job that she likes and is pretty good at --though, to her credit, it's important to her that she's part of an "honorable company" that doesn't murder noncombatants or rob innocent peasants. (I felt, for much of the book, that though Paks is the viewpoint character, we're annoyingly not privy to her deep thoughts --until I realized that, duh, she's just a basically good-natured but simple young girl who doesn't HAVE really deep thoughts!) But there are indications that Moon doesn't share Pak's simplicity here, and that our heroine's ethical sensibilities are in for some growth and development in the succeeding books; and this one ends with a crisis of genuine moral decision, in the tradition of serious fiction that aspires to do more than just entertain, and that for me lifted the rating to four stars.

    That a character, male or female, chooses to be chaste in relating to the opposite sex (that doesn't entail a vow of celibacy; married sex is chaste!), even though he/she has normal drives that need to be disciplined, isn't something I find unrealistic; rather, it's refreshing and commendable. But a total lack of interest in sex, to the point that a character is essentially asexual (especially in the late teen years, when hormone levels are still high from puberty), did not, at the time I read the book, come across to me as realistic. Since then, I've learned that although this is an unusual condition, it's one that actually exists in the real world, and so is not at all unrealistic. But the author doesn't provide that context for understanding this; and the unexplained marked difference of Pak's mindset in this respect from that of anyone else I'd ever been aware of made it hard for me, at the time, to relate to her character in that area. More importantly, while I appreciate Moon's depiction of a society where women can occupy positions of authority and can train and serve as warriors in full equality with men, I wonder about the practical effects of mixed-sex units sharing the "jacks' and the sleeping quarters, especially when sex between soldiers isn't forbidden. (Unless the herbal contraceptives that are set out on the mess tables are more effective than the herbs used in our world, I can see one potential problem immediately.) The addition of homosexual soldiers to the mix (which Moon depicts in the book) adds another wrinkle of complication. (And no, that doesn't mean I "hate and fear" homosexuals!) In real life, I'm not so sure that all of this would work as smoothly, or that most people would handle the close proximity as well, as Moon depicts (and she does deal in detail with a case of sexual harassment, even here!); but I could be wrong, and that's not to say that I have all the answers. (I've generally tended to think that men and women in the military should serve in segregated units; and women's units like the all-female elite corps in the army of the old Dahomey empire, or the Russian Battalion of Death, certainly have set a great precedent. But I suppose it's arguable that mixed units create a more natural atmosphere than segregated ones do, and might also minimize or prevent some sexual problems; so the effects wouldn't necessarily be only negative.)

    Note: Moon begins the trilogy with what's apparently a "frame" device. One of my Goodreads friends who reviewed this book felt the other half of the frame should have come at the end of this one; but I'm guessing that Moon's intent was to put it at the end of the third book, so that the whole trilogy fits into the "frame."

  7. r. r. says:

    After a promising prologue geared me up for a rousing adventure, I was massively disappointed by how dull this book ultimately was. It was the worst kind of dull, in fact, given that it wasn't due to nothing happening, but rather to how the events that did happen were related.

    In short: the prose of this novel has all the spirit and passion of a grocery list. And to go along with that the main character, Paks, is painfully flat and uninteresting. She's a naive (nearly to the point of stupidity) and also honorable farm girl with a ridiculously black-and-white view of the world who becomes a soldier to fight for good and great glory and all that, and that's it. She never does a single thing to transcend that very basic character premise. Which wouldn't be as problematic if there was any examination of said premise at all.

    As it is, Paks seems to be entirely incapable of any sort of complexity of thought or feeling. Most times she seems almost like a disinterested observer, dully bringing us an accounting of every mundane detail (EVERY SINGLE MUNDANE DETAIL) of these three years of her life. And on the rare occasions when she does start to think or feel something of any depth, another character pretty immediately explains her feelings to her and she gets over it and goes right back to how far the troops walked on this day and the next day and what they ate and how long they slept and on and on ad infinitum. That or she asks some stupid question so that another character can give us a geography or history lesson for a few pages.

    I would give the book credit for being a fantasy novel with a female protagonist and having absolutely no romance storyline outside of a few passing mentions that a friend of hers would be up for a roll in the hay if she was (which she declares that she is not and never will be with anyone). I WOULD, but given the defects of Paks's characterization already outlined, her asexuality starts to seem more like a result of her complete lack of depth of emotion than any kind of statement or subversion. And, really, based on the blatant foreshadowing in this book about Paks becoming a paladin, if I were to read the sequels (which I have no intention of doing), I worry that I would eventually begin to feel that it was actually in the service of some ridiculous Virginal (and thus ~*~pure~*~) Instrument of the Divine trope.

    In conclusion: snooooore.

  8. Maria Maria says:

    This is the first book in a trilogy, and it's a realistic depiction of military life in a fantasy world, with just a few hints of magic and evil forces at the end. We follow Paksenarrion (Paks for short) for about three years of her life, from she runs away from home at 18, until she's a veteran soldier in Duke Phelan's mercenary company. This was a long awaited re-read for me, I first read it when I was 14 or 15, and loved it.

    The reviews here on GR seems to be quite mixed, and (as usual) I really liked some of the things that put others off this book. I'm going to write a bit about the book's realism, the main character and its language, and try to explain why I liked it.

    The strength of this novel lies in its realism.

    I didn't find the realistic depictions of a soldiers everyday life boring at all. It's not just page after page of digging latrines and cleaning your sword. Although the repetitive duties of a soldier does reoccur regularly throughout the text, it's usually just a short description, and then the plot moves on. And it's always interspersed with personal relationships and developing friendships. Some other reviewers found this boring, but I had no problem with it at all. It gave a lot of depth to the story, and made it all believable. I would go so far as to say that it was absolutely necessary, that it gave the book its distinct personality. There would certainly be very little immersion without it (the writing itself provides very little).

    Paks and the other soldiers gets wet and cold. They get exhausted. They need food and sleep at regular intervals. Just like you and me. If they have to fight on an empty stomach or without much sleep they suffer for it. They make mistakes, and get hurt or die. Wounds get infected. Battles are often muddy and dusty, a confusing mess of arms and legs. Sometimes you don't get along that well with your allies. There is little glory to be found.

    Sometimes inexperienced recruits have the wrong attitude or an unrealistic view of their own abilities. Sometimes a battle is badly planned or the enemy does something you didn't expect. Lots of people Paks gets to know and befriend are random casualties in different battles. A character doesn't survive just because they are a good friend of the main character. There is a realistic randomness to who lives and who dies.

    So when all the everyday organizational bits of campaigning just works, everyone cooperates like they are supposed to and you actually win, it feels soooo much better than it would if all of these details were not in place.

    Paks is a fascinating, but boring, character.

    Yes, both at the same time. And you have to have an eye out for details to notice this. Paks has very little internal dialogue. She is a bit simple minded, perhaps. When presented with some knew piece of knowledge she often expresses that she had never thought about this before. A few times she ponders something, but usually not for long. So there's really not that much to her, unless you look a little deeper and think about how her ideals and the world she lives in clashes, and notice little comments from her friends and fellow soldiers.

    The most distinct parts of Paks' personality is her morale, her loyalty, and maybe also her feminism. She is very much on the side of the good. She wants to fight for what's good and right, and she would never stay in Phelan's mercenary company if she found their campaigns and contracts immoral or wrong. This results in Paks seeing the world as very black and white. People are either "good" or "bad", in her mind, a view that is challenged by her friends, especially in a conversation in the middle of chapter 12.

    I liked how Elizabeth Moon made us see the world through the simple mind of Paks, but at the same time complicate it and pull Paks' world view into question through conversations she has with others. This is nicely done.

    I also like that Paks is asexual. And yes, I really think she is. She expresses several times, both in the first and second book, that she has never been interested in sex or romance, and that's just the way she feels. Asexual characters are rare, and I'm all for variation, so I really enjoyed this. At one time Paks wavers, but that's because of the wishes of someone she really cares about, not because she wants it herself. And that's another thing I really like about Paks. She's always true to herself and her own ideals. She doesn't compromise.

    Strong and deep friendships are the big thing in this book, not romance.

    And as a part of Paks' deep sense of justice, I really enjoyed the short, but excellent feminist speech she gives at the end of chapter 24, when she is talking to a new, male recruit that are not used to the idea of female soldiers. It's all about freedom of choice, and not just doing what's expected of your gender.

    There is something special about Paks. Her naivety and simpleness. Her constant blushing. Her goodness and loyalty. Her black and white view of a world that is not at all black and white. Her lack of interest in romance is quite freeing. She has other goals than getting married and settling down. She's living her own life, true to herself. Re-reading this felt like reconnecting with an old friend.

    The language, at its best, was so-so.

    Using mostly telling and dialogue, the novel was often a bit distant, simply explaining what's going on without much feeling. Sometimes the language is right out clumsy, and some chapters have weirdly abrupt endings.

    The dialogues are mostly ok, and is often used to inform the readers about the politics, history, geography and religion of this world. Paks is very ignorant to begin with. Born and raised in a remote village, she doesn't know much about anything except farm work and a bit of hunting when she first sets out, so I guess all the explaining and teaching is fitting and necessary, but there's just too much of it. It becomes to apparent that this also functions as a way for the author to give some basic info about this world to the reader, and unless this kind of thing is done on purpose, in a very clever way, or with some sort of meta twist, I don't like it when the author is too visible in her own text.

    The linguistic shortcomings are, in my view, made up for by an interesting world, fascinating insights into a realistic military life, and some really action filled and thrilling sub-plots and events here and there. I would also like to point out that I read this novel in translation, and therefore my critique of the language might not apply to the original, English version.

    I have a problem with the way this book is presented to prospective readers, and a quick read through of some of the other reviews here on GR shows I'm not the only one. It's often described as the traditional high epic fantasy story of "a chosen one" on a mission. Well. That's more true of the second and third book in the series, and even then it's very down to earth. In the first book, Paks is just a soldier. A very talented soldier, who gets to see quite a lot of adventure and battles, but still. She doesn't see herself as anyone special. She works herself slowly up from nothing. She isn't just handed a magical sword and told to save the world with it. Everything she accomplishes is hard earned, and therefore feels very rewarding.

    I understand that readers going into this looking for the traditional epic fantasy, with great heroes with magical powers fighting pure evil, might be disappointed. If you go into a book with such specific expectations, and it turns out to be something different, it is natural to be disappointed. No matter how good the book might be, you will still be looking for something and not finding it. It is a shame, therefore, that the summary on the back of the book is so misleading.

    I must admit that if this book wasn't a re-reading of a favorite from my teenage years, I might judge it more harshly. The quality of the language means a lot more to me now than it did then. I would still like to recommend it to fantasy lovers, and I hope this review can ensure that some readers, at least, pick it up with the right expectations, and avoids the dissonance that wrong expectations can create between reader and text.

  9. Wanda Wanda says:

    3.5 stars

    I really wanted to like this tale more than I actually did. It had moments of greatness—as when Paksenarrion fights off her father and leaves home to join the army. (Although, as the daughter of a pig farmer, I will tell you that there are worse men that you could end up married to).

    I read this book while on holiday and it always seemed that I was interrupted right in mid-battle, left wondering for many hours how things would turn out! That said, the battles were certainly not gritty like those described by Glen Cook in his Dark Company series. These were battlefield-lite. And although Paks is injured several times and has bad things happen to her, she leads the charmed life of the fantasy heroine.

    What was refreshing was having a female main character who was competent with a weapon and interested in tactics. Now, how much is her own doing and how much is she being assisted by somewhat magical influences? This supernatural stirring in her life puts me in mind of Joan of Arc….

    Book 241 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

  10. Lorena Lorena says:

    This book (the first in a trilogy, which is also collected in an omnibus) is interesting to me primarily for its description of the main character's military training. The author is a former Marine, and as such, her creation of a female warrior has more credibility than most. However, as technically accurate as this series may be in terms of military training and strategy, it is seriously lacking in emotional resonance. The main character, Paksenarrion (Paks), never really connects emotionally with anyone else. We are told that certain other characters are her "friends," but why is a mystery. Mostly they seem to be gregarious people who adopt her without much encouragement from Paks herself, and then rapidly get themselves killed off so that the relationships don't have to develop very far. More than anything, Paks seems almost like a child. Her closest relationships are with older men who treat her in a fatherly fashion. She spends most of the series very passively taking orders from these father figures, and from others. While we are assured in brief passages that she is learning all sorts of things, her understanding of things like politics and philosophy never seems to progress beyond that of a child. She is also asexual, and experiences no sexual urges or attractions whatsoever (note that this is not a criticism of asexuality as an orientation, or of featuring asexual characters in books - in this case, it is simply another example of how this particular character makes no connections to or relationships with other people, of any kind).

    Also, I didn't care for the role Paks' faith played in these books. We are supposed to believe that her strong faith plays a large role in the final conflict in the series, but the only reason she HAS faith at all is because her gods have appeared to her repeatedly and bestowed all sorts of gifts upon her. It doesn't strike me as all that remarkable to develop an unshakeable faith in a god that is constantly showing up and actively helping you out.