Book Review: The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter

I don’t often post book reviews here on my blog, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and thought I’d afflict the world with my opinion of the most recent.
I picked up “The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter” by Elizabeth Moon(via Baen’s free book library) because I’d heard many good things about this epic, alleged fantasy. It begins very well, establishing the main character Paks’s independence, her dedication and enviable determination, her passion, her desire to do what is right and good.
The story then devolves into a daily account of How to Become a Soldier and, once she’s received her training, Paks’s story moves into scene after scene of military maneuvers sans any real political groundwork. There are pages of scenery descriptions which, while they are lovely, do nothing to move the tale along. And then there are lists. Paragraphs long! I found myself doing a lot of skimming, and a lot of getting up to walk around and wake myself up.
Now and then a little magic is thrown in as if the author sometimes remembered the book was supposed to be a fantasy. Paks sees, at a distance, some dwarves and an elf, we’re told about gnomes, and there are legends of orcs — but there is never any interaction with them. There is a religious medallion that may or may not be magical, and a brief ‘magical moments’ deals with another medallion and a magical sword. Luckily, there is a battle toward the end that includes some flashing lights and dark, swirling smoke…
Most of the characters, including Paks herself, are rather flat and one-dimensional. Worse, it appears as if the author had a limited list of names to choose from, for there are multiple characters with the same names, and/or characters whose names are different by one vowel or consonant. It made for some confusing, frustrating reading. 
Near the end of the book, which is told from Paks’s POV, there’s a chapter thrown in from the viewpoint of another character — not even a character Paks has had much interaction with, but the son of a commander who’s a friend of *her* commander. This chapter doesn’t even have the courtesy of following the timeline, and seems to have been inserted for the sole reason of tossing in a (tastefully handled, to be sure) torture scene. In the end, the torturee doesn’t even make a comment about how the captured bad guy should die, although he is included (verbally, anyway) in the scene.
The book *ends* with plenty of pointers to “something uncommon” about Paks, but she is determined to continue her Life as a Soldier in spite of the presence of the exciting (and magical, woohoo!) Marshal and/or paladin. I wonder if the second book includes as much marching and rain and latrine-digging, but I don’t have any real inspiration to find out.
In other news, we’re preparing ourselves for Wedding #2 of the summer. Child #3, as it happens. She has asked me to design her invitations, but I’m having a wee bit of trouble with the printer (This is me looking pointedly at my husband, who has the know-how and access to the facilities). But hey, we still have a week before the invites need to be mailed. LOTS of time, right?
In the meantime, there are some other design-related things I get to do (a picture/poem, tags, place cards, seating chart, video montage…) Not a chance of being bored, no, sir.
I’ve also been working on some novel-editing. I’m wondering if I’m stuck in a cosmic Slow Cycle, because that, too, seems to be proceeding at something less than a snail’s pace. Usually reading inspires me fantastically, but lately when I sit down in front of the computer I am just as likely to go catch up on the Fringe episodes I missed as I am to write. Er, I mean edit
Let’s face it: this is Me, spending some quality time polishing my crown. I am, after all, the Empress of Procrastination.
So… what have you been reading lately? Anything that might successfully distract me from completing my various quests? 😀

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