4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A gripping story in a fascinating world,
This review is from: The Curse of Chalion (Paperback)
From page one of this book I was gripped, and as events unfolded I found myself transported to a new world, that of the kingdom of Chalion.
Our guide for the story is Cazaril who we first meet as a tired and lame beggar making his way to the fortress where his erstwhile employer, the Provincara (rather like the Queen Mum) of Chalion, lives. Cazaril was previously a Castillar (a Noble) and a courtier but after a fortress he was defending was breached he was taken away as a prisoner of war by the Roknari peoples who forced him to be a galley slave on boats for eighteen months, thus his broken down health. His reminiscences of his history before the time we meet him in the story gradually unfold and prove to be more important to events that initially apparent.
Once Cazaril is accepted into the Provincara’s service again as a tutor to her granddaughter we meet other members of her family – her daughter Ista (who appears to be mad), her granddaughter Iselle the princess (Or Royesse), her brother Teidez the prince (or Royce), their elder half-brother Orico (the Roya) and his wife (the Royina) and various other courtiers. As you can see from the different terms given for the grades of nobles, it can be quite confusing and I would rather have enjoyed a table of degrees of nobility – might have made it a bit simpler.
What’s fascinating about this book (and its sequel, Paladin of Souls, which I read straight after this one) is the theological background to the story. Bujold has created an entire religious system based on five deities (the Father, The Mother, The Daughter, The Son and The Bastard) – the religious observance of the people of Chalion is portrayed brilliantly. Many of the events are shaped by the Gods and the influence they have in the real world, culminating in Cazaril becoming a living saint. And yet the hand of these gods is not always benevolent, and it is the way in which Bujold unfolds the story of the curse on the descendants of King Ias (the father of Iselle, Teidez and Orico) and the ways in which Cazaril and others try to break it.
There’s also a charming love story unfolding between Cazaril and Iselle’s handmaiden Betriz which adds a little spice to the story alongside a marriage for political gain between Iselle and a neighbouring kingdom’s heir.
What I found so enjoyable about this tale was the different setting of the quintarian religion and the way in which the gods played important roles in the story; Cazaril is a worthy hero with flashes of humour and real grit – I was rooting for him to succeed in lifting the curse.
The follow up to this book, Paladin Of Souls, is just as good – I heartily recommend both books.