Oath of Gold by Elizabeth Moon (The Deed of Paksenarrion)

In her final adventure, soldier turned coward turned paladin Paksenarrion finds herself on a quest to crown the true king, a quest that will bring her face to face with darkest evil.

Oath of Gold concludes the Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy in a most satisfactory manner, no matter how trite my one-liner may seem. (Have I mentioned lately how hard it is to summarize epic fantasy?)

I was thoroughly satisfied by the breadth of the journey upon which Elizabeth Moon sets her intrepid protagonist. Paksenarrion’s story is as thorough an examination of the nature of heroism as any I’ve ever seen. As a young girl, she dreamed of being the shining, heroic knight on a horse, but the events of Divided Allegiance left her utterly broken, unable to wield a sword or even bear the sound of a galloping horse. Her cowardice shames her to her core, and she mourns her lost chance at becoming a paladin, a knight blessed with the power to heal, and the ability to discern good from evil.

Needless to say, Paks is given a second chance–but what I love is that she values her suffering as much as her glory. When offered healing of her memories of her darkest days, she says, “No. I thank you for the thought of that gift. But what I am now–what I can do–comes from that. The things that were so bad, that hurt so, if I forget them, if I forget such things still happen, how can I help others? My scars prove that I know myself what others suffer.”

Grounded as they are in her worship of a holy God, Paks’s statement has theological dimensions that make me shiver with joy. And her story made me ponder the meaning of “the suffering servant,” a name for Jesus that Paks’s story has helped me understand in a deeper way.

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