Like a microscope on a game safari, Sheepfarmer’s Daughter focuses on exactly the wrong details. The classic epic fantasy is notable for a common-born female lead, Paksenarrion, and the focus on her life after she joins a private military company. I enjoyed the writing style and the quality, but felt I would have liked a little more character development: the times we hear Paks’ inner dialogue are too far apart, and there is too much description without reflection.
I can appreciate that the lavish details of the road are pertinent to an infantry soldier, and I give Moon credit for attempting to capture some of the necessary repetition and drills in a soldier’s life. While Moon captured that sense of hard routine, I would have thought including more scenes of her bedding down on the road, discussions around the campfire, etc., could have let Paks in for some personal growth. Without it, the characters lack all but the most distinguishing of characteristics, and there are few episodes of building camaraderie, except with Saren. When a soldier is lost, it is almost meaningless, an expected casualty. Likewise, Paks remains a young, amorphous blob of a character; it is evident she is Loyal, Honest, Strong and Energetic, but she seems to spare very little thought for the dynamics of a company, the larger world, why her superiors would be confiding in her and so forth. We can see from a couple of small events that Paks is bound for Greater Things, but because Paks doesn’t want to think about it, the narration doesn’t.
The plot is decent, although troubled at times by the narrative jump of “three months ago…” or “six months later…” A long section at the beginning deals with investigating an assault involving Paks, and I found it both an odd narrative choice for the beginning of a story and a relief to be spared the actual scene. (Insert feminist rant about swordswomen needing to be assaulted/raped by men). Sexuality is mentioned a couple of times after that, but then never again addressed, which seemed odd. It was clearly an issue for company members, and for her family before she ran away, but once in the company, she spends almost no time thinking about it or even acting on it. The microscope focusing in on road quality leaves giant holes where other details might lie.
Overall, the story felt remarkable for its thoroughness and for its determination to tell the tale of an Ordinary Soldier, even if that soldier is bound to become Extraordinary. Quite frankly, it was a “it was okay” level book for me, but I rounded up due to the quality of writing.