1984; 256 pages. New Author? : No. Book 3 of The Pagans trilogy. Genre : Historical Adventure. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
Time marches on. The Hunter-Gatherer tribes are no more. Paoul, Tagart's adopted son, is taken in by the "civilized" people and is destined for the Red Priesthood.
The Hunter-Gatherers would be appalled. The farming and mining communities are dangerous enemies; the Flint Lord's soldiers even more so. But the Red Priests, with their tattooed 5-pointed stars on the left hands, are said by Tagart to be the most-feared of all. Time marches on.
What's To Like...
The Earth Goddess has a different tone than the first two books of this series (reviewed here and here). The focus is now on Religion, so not surprisingly, there is a lot less fighting and killing. Indeed, after an initial spate of it, most of the subsequent bloodshed occurs offscreen.
Richard Herley sets this third book about 8 years after Book 2. Tagart, Fodich, and Lord Hewzane serve as a bridge between the two novels. Rian and Ika also have lesser roles. For the most part, we are treated to a new cast of characters, and new lands to explore. Paoul, the hero, is not of Tagart's bloodline, and that's a nice change-of-pace. Like Tagart, he has his flaws.
Despite the paucity of gore, TEG is not a boring read. The writing is strong, and the pace, with one exception (the details of the Red Priests' dogma), moves along at a nice clip. The major characters are well-developed (maybe that's the upside to less bloodshed), and there are some deep insights about Religion in this story that are still applicable today.
The ending seemed a bit hurried to me, but it had some neat twists and there is a kewl epilogue. All the major plotlines (Paoul's heritage, religion, and love issues; plus Hothen's lot) are tied up, I like this better than some other neverending series I've read (WoT, GRRM).
Kewlest New Word...
Stultifying : causing to appear foolish or absurd.
"I ... I want to know why I have been brought here. Am I ... am I to be sacrificed?"
The old priest looked amused. "What gives you that idea?"
"I once heard someone say..."
"That children were sacrificed to the Earth Mother. By the red priests. By you."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you. Here we cut no throats at all." (loc. 761)
"Pagans", they were called; but who were the real heathens, the criminals who abused the greatest faculty of man? There could be no going back to the forests. It was too late for that. The marvels of Tagart's age had gone. Man was coming to another age, not of decay, as the Order so cynically had it, but of potential unfulfilled. It never could be fulfilled if he were deprived of the single faculty on which the world's welfare hinged, the faculty indivisible from that which Paoul loved and worshipped most in Yseld: the human spirit. (loc. 3065)
I bought The Earth Goddess for $2.99 at Amazon. Book 2, The Flint Lord, is also $2.99. Book 1, The Stone Arrow, is free for the downloading. You really can't ask for a better deal than that.
"Above all, remember Gauhm." (loc. 1019)
For me, the overlying theme throughout this trilogy was the merits of civilization (as we define it) versus the merits of those who we would call savages/pagans. The first book examines farming vs. hunting as a lifestyle. In Book 2, the focus is on the two sides' abilities in warfare. And here, the topic is an organized religion vs. nature worship.
In each case, the pagans acquit themselves admirably. Yet their victories are bittersweet and Pyrrhic. Hunter-Gatherers may survive a single encounter, but in the long run, the Agrarian way of life always wins out.
I enjoyed The Earth Goddess, in part bacause the other reviews at Amazon alerted me to the change in tone. For that matter, I enjoyed the trilogy as a whole. 7½ Stars for TEG; 8 Stars for the series.