So, life as a responsible adult is very busy. There’s a great, big pile of reviews waiting for me to write them, including books, anime, and television shows, and a pile of movies that I forewent watching and reviewing when they came out in theaters. But, busy or not, I could not let my experience with Ordination, by Daniel M. Ford, go by without comment.
This is one of those books that justifies and rewards my entire extended experimentation with new titles and new series. I’ve had a few hits with that, but also a few misses. This is one of the better hits, definitely.
As the first part of The Paladin Trilogy, Ordination follows a man as he becomes said paladin. Allystaire is a former lord, a fallen, exiled knight, clever in the ways of battle, and every bit as subtle as the great hammer which is his primary weapon. He is, in many ways, anything but the stereotypical image of a paladin, both for the reader and for the world he is in, which sings of handsome, gallant warriors of long ago, and now gets a rough, battered, not-exactly-handsome brute. But when chance or fate puts him in the right place at the right time, it is his choices, not some beautiful exterior, which make him a hero. Those choices ultimately boil down to one vital piece of his character: the capacity to truly care about other people, as well as the resolve to act on that compassion.
Over the course of events, Allystaire finds himself called by a goddess, whom he calls the Mother, to act as her agent in righting the wrongs of the world. He strikes down evildoers, he heals the sick and the wounded, he protects those in need of a defender, and he stands directly against all those greater powers, be they arrogant nobility, murderous sorcerer, or religious fanatic, which oppress and make victims of common men, women, and children.
Not to make him sound “perfect,” of course. Certainly, he is well-regarded by those who follow him, and he strives to live according to the principles he espouses, but he has his flaws, his limitations, and his past, including his mistakes and his losses. In short, he is human, which makes him both a believable and an enjoyable character.
Indeed, there is something about all of the characters in Ordination which make them feel real to the reader. Be they major characters who join Allystaire, such as the female warrior Idgen Marte, the dwarfish alchemist Torvul, and the young girl Mol, or minor characters like Renard, Leah, Henri, and Norbert, or others who come and go as either friend or foe, there is simply something impressively human about them. As a would-be storyteller myself, I can recognize superior craftsmanship when I see it. These are not archetypes, these are people, dealing with all too real tragedies and hopes. I find myself actually caring about them on some level.
And they are most entertaining to watch, too!
If I have one complaint, at all, it’s how Ordination ends. Specifically, it’s a bit like the ending to Fellowship of the Ring. It’s obvious that Ford’s entire trilogy will function best when it is complete and can be read from beginning to end with minimal interruption. Fortunately, the second book is long since published, and the third is about to be, so I lucked out! 🙂
It says something pretty good when the only complaint about the end of one book is how it doesn’t immediately continue into the next. 😉
That goes into the narrative, the story, the structure of it, the pacing, the obstacles the heroes face, etc. Without going into too much (must avoid spoilers, ya know), I will say that I never wanted to put the book down. It was well-paced, substantive, realistic (for a fantasy novel, of course), it never bored me, but it also never overdid anything to try and get me to read more, and so on and so forth.
The texture of the world, also, speaks of competent world-building. The medieval setting, the long-running war, the other deities and supernatural powers and their adherents… I honestly have nothing to complain about here.
And, of course, the themes, involving anger and forgiveness, change and redemption, compassion and power, justice and mercy, all of these and more. What comes through most clear, so far, to me, is the hope of a light born anew in a world of darkness and despair. There are forces which fear hope and hate compassion, even as they fail to comprehend such, for their power is built atop the backs of others. And now some new power challenges that approach, dares to build others up instead of tearing them down? Impossible! And intolerable.
To wrap this up, I simply loved this book.
I loved Ordination, I’m already reading the next book, Stillbright, I look forward to Crusade, and I am interested in anything else Ford has written or will write. 🙂
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.