3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A worthy sequel in a fascinating world,
This review is from: Paladin of Souls (Paperback)
This book is the follow-up to The Curse Of Chalion although that book drew to a satisfactory close and this book does work as a stand-alone.
It focuses on the mother of the ruler of Chalion, the Royina Ista, who most people think is mad. However she's not mad, she is God-touched, and this has affected her life, along with the blight of the curse that was on her family until it was lifted three years before by Cazaril (the events in the previous book).
Ista has major cabin fever being stuck in a fortress with lots of sycophants who think she is potty so she arranges to go on a pilgrimage and gathers a band of people around her to assist her - a priest of the Bastard order (the religion has five deities and the Bastard is one), a young female courier rider, Liss, and two guards. Their pilgrimage starts off OK but then things start to go wrong. Ista is kidnapped, her band is split up and eventually she is rescued by a rather charming nobleman, Arhys.
It was at this point that the story diverged from the direction I thought it would take. We were primed to know that Ista hasn't experienced love for years, has written it out of her life, and when Arhys appears on the scene and sweeps her off her feet (literally) I thought, "ah, so here we go, a romance." But no, Arhys is married and then we discover, rather surprisingly, that he is also dead! The second half of the book is taken up with the battle between the inhabitants of Poriphors (of which Arhys is leader) and the evil Rocknari peoples - but this battle is barely a physical one, it is mainly a battle in the world of demons. Arhys is kept from being entirely dead by a demon in his wife; one of Ista's guards also has a demon; and they are fighting against an incredibly strong woman who has lots of demons at her command.
As a counterpoint to all these demons, the Quintarian religion so ably put together by Bujold makes an important contribution to this story. That's one of the things I enjoyed the most - such a creative mind to work out all the different facets of this religion and to portray the confusion, disappointment and disillusionment with the gods as well as the miracles that they do - occasionally.
Ista as a character was also interesting. I didn't like her much in The Curse of Chalion as she was so passive and... well... wet. In this story she starts out like that but then takes charge of events as things move on. She realises that she has the experience and understanding to make sense of the events, and although very anti the gods of her religion she comes to see that she must allow them to do their worst through her in order to save those about whom she has grown to care.
The book ends very satisfactorily with Ista even finding her own romance and with the demons of Roknari beaten back. There are hints of future battles, though, which I hope suggest another book in this series. I'll certainly be buying it.