“Surrender None”

Some thoughts and impressions on the book. Spoiler warning.

Elizabeth Moon is one of those authors whose work I enjoy, but I’ve never actively sought out. In fact, I’ve only ever read her collaborations with Anne McCaffrey. However, finding one of her books I’d never read before in a charity shop the other day was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I’ve just finished Surrender None: The Legacy of Gird, and overall I have to say I enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be on the look out for what I gather are the sequels, Liar’s Oath and the Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy. I do have a few critiques, and I thought I might share them with my fellow Readers. Since there will be spoilers, I’m putting it all below the break.

I want to start out by saying again that overall I enjoyed the book. The first three-quarters of it were good. Perhaps not the greatest writing I’ve ever encountered, but solid fantasy with an extremely sympathetic main character, Gird, and a fairly varied and rich selection of secondary characters supported by solid world-building. We follow Gird from boyhood (Moon never indicates exactly how young he is, but I estimate perhaps 8 or 9) and his trials of growing up a peasant under the harshly cruel oppression of his people by foreign lords. He eventually loses most of his family and is evicted from his farm steading, precipitating his becoming an outlaw. Rather than prey on his own however, he uses his strength and training to lead a band of rebels against the nobles, and raise the populace up in revolution. Gird also gives thought to life beyond revolution, and the need for fair laws and leaders. He is not perfect, and makes many mistakes, all of which help him to grow towards being a better leader, a fitting trait for any main character.

It is about three-quarters through the book that things start to come apart a bit, right around the time of the climactic “final” battle, in which the king is killed. The battle itself is not particularly well-written. Early skirmishes were believable and interesting, focused on Gird’s experience of war, his worries and fears and striving to be a successful leader. The “final” battle seems to get away from Moon, though, and becomes less believable, and almost boring. The story further spirals out of hand as she “tells” us about Gird’s travels and struggles to set up a lasting peace, glossing over the further battles and the real conclusion to fighting. My biggest peeve, however, was Gird’s sudden transformation from “visionary liberator” to “god-chosen liberator” at this point in the story. There was no particular lead-up, simply a sudden vision experienced by Gird, the voices of the gods, though exactly which ones are meant is not always clear, and the knowledge that he will not enjoy the peace he will create. The entire thing has a feeling of being tacked on, an afterthought, rather than an integral part of the story, which is of course quite jarring. Gird’s death is also a bit jarring. It feels contrived, a way to make recalcitrant people over into the “happy ending” by making everyone magically (literally!) be all sweetness and light.

As I said, while I was a bit disappointed by the end of the book, I still finished it, and would like to read the other books set in the same world. This is definitely an example of a rich and interesting world pulling the Reader in despite some technical difficulties in the writing. This is a book I can recommend, with reservations.


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