Review: The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster BujoldThe Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
First Published: December 2000
Read from: August 04 to 10, 2013

Cursed by a ‘blah’ Cover & Title, Blessed with Great Writing

I had never read any Lois McMaster Bujold before, and would not have selected this book to read from its description or cover if it had not been for the Sword & Laser book club, which selected it as this month’s pick as a “sword” or fantasy selection. The whole reason I decided to try and follow this club was that I was stuck in a rut of the same old “classic” sci-fi & fantasy authors and there were so many genre authors out but so many seemed to be… well, trash. I wanted to find a club that would read a mix of old & new, sci-fi & fantasy, and that would feature mostly the “good stuff”.

Despite initially judging this book poorly by its cover and my lack of knowledge about the author, The Curse of Chalion would definitely classify as good stuff. The fantasy novel is grounded in a well constructed medieval-like fantasy setting with lots of political intrigue, some action, and a little magic as the Gods work through their followers to manipulate events.

I went through waves of really liking this book and being somewhat ambivalent about it. If I could I would probably give the book 3.5 stars. But since the parts I liked I REALLY liked, and the parts I didn’t still were fairly good; I will give this book 4 stars overall.

And I plan to read more Bujold. While this book is a stand alone, there are two other books set in the same world. The next book “Paladin of Souls” apparently features a minor character from this book and received both the Hugo & Nebula awards for best novel the year it was released, so I have added it to a prominent position in my “Want To Read” list.

Back to this book… As I had not read any Bujold before (and being cheap), I didn’t want to chip out money for an unread author. Looking for a loaner digital version I could download, I discovered no ebooks of it were available via my library, but a digital audio book of it was. I usually can’t stay engaged with audio books the way I do with the written word. And while I had the same difficulty with this book, I believe it was my failing, as the reader seemed much more interesting than books I had listened to in the past. Downloading the audio book served its purpose in that by listening to it for some time I was interested enough in the main character and the world he lived in to try digging up a printed copy of the book. I managed to get an “old-fashioned” physical copy of the book put on hold at the library and received it quickly enough that I reread what little I had listened to.

Without going into any spoilers yet (the back cover mentions this stuff), the main character Cazaril, is a 35+ year old career soldier who is returning to the noble house he once served in as a page before leaving for war at the age of (16?) or so. While he served well and in leadership positions through much of his career he is returning now older than his years, broken in body and spirit after a stint as a slave. Wishing to find some safe position in his old home and become invisible as he could, he is taken in. However due to being a minor noble himself, and due to his knowledge and experience, instead of a lowly position he is named as the secretary-tutor of Royesse Iselle, the strong-willed sister of the boy Royse Tiedez who is next in line to rule Chalion. Both were sent to this minor house in their youth, but soon the children and Cazaril as their servant, are called back to the royal court of Cardegos, where old enemies of Cazaril now hold powerful positions…

Now for some specifics. Warning, spoilers follow!…

Spoiler: Curse of Chalion Specifics Show

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