[Book Review] That is one hard-to-kill hero

Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Curse of Chalion (Chalion, #1)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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5 thoughts on “[Book Review] That is one hard-to-kill hero

  1. I love it that you have teamed up with a friend to read! I used to do that when I was a little girl… I sat with my best firend and we used to read books to each other. We took turns with chapters… anyways, The Curse of Chalion sounds very interesting and exciting! I will put in on my Amazon list!

  2. You, madam, are a liar. You are well aware that I fell in love with Caz from at least page three. I just loved him less as the story progressed and his life ceased to be the worst ever. Not that he had it easy, or anything. But he started out at such an awesome low that his life wasn’t as deliciously horrible when he developed positive life outlooks.

    I also recommend this book to people that are tired of the very stale character development in many fantasy novels. I also recommend it to anyone that feels overdosed on antiheroes that tip the scale into nastiness and the 250 shades of gray that are manifest in Game of Thrones.

  3. I found that teaming up with my twelve year-old daughter is a fun way for me to read some really good YA that I may not have sought out on my own. I’ll add Curse of Chalion to my list.

  4. Pingback: The Cover Made Me Read It: Miserere by Teresa Frohock | thecanaryreview

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