Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

I first read this in 2013 and then reread it six years later because it was the opening episode of Season 9 for A Good Story is Hard to Find. 

Here I am, rereading it yet another six years late. That must be my sweet spot for really getting a lot from this book. It was the perfect Lenten read, though I didn't plan it that way. Time to rerun my original review from 2013 in case you missed it or haven't reread it lately!


Two readers I trust, Will Duquette and Amy H. Sturgis, have strongly recommended both this author and book. I certainly am glad they did, although if Goodreads allowed it I would give it 4-1/2 stars instead of the full 5, simply because I feel the ending was rushed as if the author was ready to get this situation done and the book sent out. I felt this especially in the case of the romantic resolution for the protagonist.

However, overall I really enjoyed this tale of a bedraggled, galley ship survivor who, despite his best efforts to the contrary, finds himself in the middle of royal intrigue. If that weren't enough, he is also pulled into the the affairs of the divine as a result and this complicates his life as one might imagine. This is a land of various gods and strong, dark magic. It is, however, also a land where free will matters in the outcome of events.

I must admit that about 5 or 6 chapters into it I almost put this book down, thinking it was much of a muchness with other such tales. Luckily, Amy H. Sturgis picked that moment to comment that this was one of her favorite books. I was not going to be the one who quit on her after that. I respect her too much. I'd read to the end and either be bored by it or love it for the entire thing. Just about then was actually when it got more interesting, so if you find yourself in similar straits, just keep going.

The Curse of Chalion reminded me strongly in some ways of Barbara Hambly's Sun Wolf trilogy, especially in the author's examination of a mature man humbled by events and forced to learn who he is below the surface. However, Curse is altogether more layered and interesting.

How much did I like it? I gave the book's name to both daughters yesterday with the comment that I'd be looking forward to discussing it with them. 

Will Duquette's review of the sequel, Paladin of Souls, included this comment, which works pretty well for this book also:
See, this is a fantasy series, but it's almost what you might call theological science fiction. That is to say, Bujold has invented a theology (a very interesting one, I might add) and a religion to go with it--and then, having set up the rules, she's seeing where they take her.

1 comment:

  1. I've not read any fantasy by Bujold, though I very much enjoy her Vorkosigan books - in which she sets up societies, with various social codes, mores, and motivating values, and sees where they go and how they interact. In space, of course. I read once that when asked how she came up with the plots for the Vorkosigan books, Bujold said that she just thought of the worst possible thing she could do to Miles (the main character in most of the books) and then watched to see what he would do to extricate himself. I especially like that the characters who initially seem like flat 'filler' characters almost always wind up showing unexpected depths.