Okay, I’ll be honest – I started Author Spotlight mostly because I love Elizabeth Moon’s work, and I cannot recommend her work highly enough. She is foremost among several authors that I don’t think are as widely read as they deserve; thus, Author Spotlight is born!
I’ll begin by admitting I haven’t read everything she has written. I’ve read twelve of her books, including both her high fantasy world and her science fiction (I have several more on my TBR list!). Across the board, I have found well-written, well-edited, grammatically correct and consistent novels. I have found intelligent and realistic characters… a teenager that acts like a teenager, making the mistakes that are an inherent part of growing up; a strong, capable woman who still struggles at times with insecurity and wondering where she fits in the grand scheme of things; an honorable man who fulfills his promises, even when he knows keeping that promise will have consequences… And the best of it is that these characters are relatable and original. Can you even tell which come from science fiction and which from fantasy? This is one of Moon’s strengths – she is genre-savvy enough to use certain expectations (ie tropes, clichés, etc.), but she does not allow them to hinder the development of the characters or of the story she is telling.
The story that I know best is The Deed of Paksenarrion – probably Moon’s widest-read series (B: And Chelsea’s most favoritest series in the known universe). If you have ever wondered about what exactly a paladin is or does, this trilogy is by far the most definitive example I can give. In fact, part of the second book is reminiscent in all the best ways of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The trilogy hits the high points of fantasy: elves, dwarves, militant religious orders, clearly delineated good and evil… There’s a lot to love. But it stays true to its Sword-and-Sorcery roots: the trilogy clearly centers on the travels and trials of one character. Even the sequel series – though more expansive – follows individual characters on their respective journeys.
Moon’s Science Fiction works are more numerous, but – the ones that I have read, at least – just as enjoyable. They tend more towards Space Opera than anything else, containing smuggling and realistic (!) space battles, with a healthy balance of lightheartedness and character growth. The ratio of time-in-space to time-on-planet is well-handled, and the juxtaposition of advanced technology and primitive skills keeps things interesting (One series fairly heavily features horses, even!).
All in all, Elizabeth Moon is an author I can recommend to a wide range of readers. Even though some of her books feature mild romance, I have not found anything I cannot recommend to a younger reader. Moon deals with topics ranging from coming of age to growing old, from the purpose of religion to justification for a war.