Continuing my re-read of the original Paksenarrion trilogy.
First I have to talk about the cover of this book. This is obviously a re-issued cover but I like my original cover better.
Both covers actually do a good job of depicting a pivotal character-building event in the book. But I think the original cover depiction of Paks' brutal, continuous death-cage fighting match with the multiple orcs, while all the time being invaded by total evil is the defining element of this entire book.
But enough about the covers.
Of the three books, i think this is my least favorite. Not because it is bad but it has none of the stuff that I really loved about the first one. One of my favorite aspects of that book was the depiction of the Company and how Paks fit in and made a new family with them. That is all missing in this book.
After the end of the first book, Paks takes a leave from the company. At the conclusion of Siniava's war, there are some things about the way the end of the war was being handled that did not sit well with Paks. So she strikes out on what is a typical hero's quest.
She travels, meets people and has a series of adventures. And that sounds incredibly tame for a book that actually turns out to be incredibly harrowing for our heroine and somewhat depressing actually. My problem largely is that Paks seems so isolated throughout this book, learning a bunch of hard lessons especially about such things as trust. She is a person who has never been out in the world alone and thus is learning in quick and brutal fashion that the world is not a safe place to be. Having read the series multiple times, I realize in retrospect that the things in this book had to happen in order for Paks to become the person she does. She has to suffer, essentially, in order to be the type of hero she becomes.
The ending of this book always makes me so sad. After Paks is lost in Achrya's (the evil spider demon) lair and has to fight her way out in a series of escalatingly awful matches, she is rescued and 'cured' of the evil that has been done to her. Only problem is the cure is almost as bad as the evil. So in the end, Paks is a mere shadow of herself. The book ends with a series of letters from various people who are looking for her and they describe a person who is light years away from the tough warrior.
As an ending to a middle book of a trilogy it is brilliant because, when you look at the cover of the next book --- with Paks on a horse, magical sword ablazing -- you know something gives. So you have to read the final book to find out what.