There are two dangers when you read a series as it comes out. First, you get tired of waiting and loose interested. The effort of rereading everything every few years just so the new book makes sense is tiring. The other danger is getting too exciting during the delay and being let down when the book isn’t the best thing you’ve ever read. There is a very small handful of authors I read who completely skip over this problem, and Elizabeth Moon is one of them.
For one thing, her stories are so original and three dimensional that they become a part of your memories, your experiences even, and there’s no chance of forgetting where you left off. For another, at this point I doubt she knows how to write a mediocre book. When someone asks which her best book is, you have to hold back a hysterical giggle as you hand them her complete works. The fourth book of the Paladin’s Legacy series, Limits of Power, more than met my expectations. It answered enough questions or at least acknowledged them and thrust the story forward with action and character growth.
Limits of Power picks up directly after the ending of Echoes of Betrayal with Kieri, Arian, and Dorrin’s swords covered in iynisin blood and the Lady of the Elves dead on the floor. Naturally, everything promptly gets worse. The elvenhome is gone and strange patterns built into the palace seem to have the ability to transport people. But isn’t only in Chaya that things are going awry. All over the world, people are developing magery, throwing the Girdish into crisis. The Marshal-General, stunned by some of her follows attitudes and actions, begins to explore the possibility of changing the Code. However, changing centuries of teaching and tradition doesn’t happen quickly, and Prince Camwyn of Tsaia desperately needs their verdict because he has become a mage also, and his entire family’s right to rule is in question.
The thing that endears all the Paksworld books to me is that they take huge, sprawling political and history events and tell them through the eyes of individuals. You never get bogged down reading about how one country’s customs are affecting another country’s ability to flourish. Instead, you get to learn about it from the eyes of a main character. You get to see it as a source of frustration, relief, or pride. And I think what I love most is the fact that none of the characters have the entire picture, so each brings a very different perspective. The Marshal-General is struggling to reevaluate not just her followers’ beliefs toward magery, but her own as well. Nearly all the adults are scared by why this new surge of mages means, but Camwyn, while scared he might be banished or executed, kind of enjoys his new found powers the way only a teenager can.
This was a new and fascinating aspect of the story that Limits of Power brought to the surface. For the most part, the earlier three books focused on older characters who have seen enough and learned enough to be deeply concerned by all that’s happening around them. They understand that seemingly unconnected events probably are related and that mostly likely the occurrences they are dealing with are really part of something much larger and more dangerous. And certainly, we’ve see that evil has no compulsions about targeting children and youths, but Limits of Power repeatedly touched on how the next generation perceived the events around them…and it was surprising.
Dorrin’s three Squires were put through the wringer in the last books, but all of them are bouncing back with an almost shocking indifference to the fact their entire world seems to be at war. Beclan was stripped of his title and disowned (sort of) by his family, but that doesn’t stop him from flirting his way through the king’s court. Daryan was maliciously crippled and healed through a little understood magic using bits of wood. Yet he thinks the fact his thumbs grow is the coolest thing. And of course Camwyn’s ridden in a dragon and can fly, and he’s deeply taken with the magics that surround him. Again and again, we catch a glimpse that the real changes are going to come from kings or the Marshals, but from the next generation. That even while the adults face the worst crisis in living memory, the youths are bouncing back already and begin to accept their changed world and to delight in all its new wonders.
So yes, I’m very eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, and all the other Paksworld books that might follow. But unlike so many series, I finished Limits of Power with a sense of satisfaction. The action moved forward, the world was broadened, the characters deepened, and my own thoughts widened. And there is less a sense of “I need the next book NOW” and more a sense of “the next book will be more than worth the wait.”