This is a photo I took in a newly discovered bookshop (like that one in Salem, Mass) in the town of Nyack only thirty minutes from where I live, just across the Hudson River. When I spotted it, I had to pick up this copy of Sheepfarmer's Daughter, book 1 of The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy by Elizabeth Moon. I recently had reason to read these books and I enjoyed them immensely. While I already own the massive paperback of the trilogy, I had to pick it up: love old editions of some books and I really dig the original cover art of this one.
Sheepfarmer's Daughter, for those who don't know of it, seems at first like little more than a detailed account of a young woman’s experiences as a mercenary. The plot is straightforward in that way. The setting itself is a fairly generic, low-magic fantasy world, and the story is no more complex than simply keeping track of the many characters.
Despite all that, the story held me. I can't even explain why. There's something endearing about the character of Paksenarrion herself and her naiveté. There's also the camaraderie she shares with her new friends, the recurring moral struggle (fight for money vs. fight for good), and her burgeoning, mysterious powers. The trilogy as a whole dabbles with some common fantasy tropes I'm very familiar with, especially those derived from D&D: orcs, dwarves, elves, dark elves, magic, giant spiders, and paladins. As a Tolkien fan, I approve of Moon's non-preachy way of exploring spirituality, but the books' strength is the recurring contrast between regular soldiers (those serving a group, or themselves) and paladins (those serving a god or ideal), and the interaction between the two.
All in all, I'd recommend this trilogy to anyone who ever liked the character of Éowyn in The Lord of the Rings but felt her personal story was largely untold. Enter Paksenarrion! These books would make excellent reading for Women's Studies in high school or college, if you ask me: an epic tale whose protagonist is a likable, strong female character, and which doesn't for a second read like angry, militant feminism or like someone's agenda.
In any case, the bookshop also has a friendly old dog. All good bookstores should.