Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
What’s better than reading a book? Well, reading an awesome book.
What’s better than reading an awesome book? Reading an awesome book with a friend.
Kat and I teamed up and threw ourselves into Bujold’s first book in the Chalion series, The Curse of Chalion. I don’t know about Kat, but I fell in love with Cazaril, the book’s main character, almost from page 1.
Once a commander of a fortress under siege and a loyal man in the royal service, Cazaril has had his spirit and body broken in the slave galleys. Making his way home on across the country on foot, all he wants is a small household where he can quietly live out there rest of his life, far from the politics of the capital and the enemies who want him dead.
But when he returns to Chalion, he is swept back into the world of conniving nobility and the blighted royal court of Cardegoss, charged with serving as the tutor-secretary to Iselle, the clear-eyed sister to the heir to the throne. As enemies circle and a curse over the house of Chalion gnaws away at the royal family, Cazaril finds himself the only man standing between his young charge and the abyss.
Beyond the politicking, the story brings together death magic and miracles, gods and demons, journeys and adventuring, but all without overwhelming the characters. The Curse of Chalion dives straight into the tradition of literary fantasy, but not the staid sort, I promise. There are plenty of flashes of delightful, situational humor and that characteristic Bujold flair for dry, witty dialogue. If you’re a fan of either Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga or the Sharing Knife series, you’ll find that Chalion is once again, different and with its own, distinct voice.
The tone and approach reminded me of historic fiction, with an infusion of medieval. If the names were different, we could have been talking about Spain or Italy in the middle ages – that is, assuming medieval Europe has a pantheon of gods moving world-weary heroes by prodding them with miracles.
As I read, I realized it was going to be one of those stories where I really wasn’t able to predict where it would go next, not even in the general sense. It was also a breath of fresh air to see maturity of the character’s emotional reactions to trauma laden events of his life. None of that coming-of-age nonsense, sprinkled in-and-around romantic angst. And yep, there’s a romantic subplot, too – a bit flimsy, but there you go.
I recommend this to anyone who loves fantasy, but might be a little jaded when it comes to the traditional, adventuring heroes quest formula.
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