The Curse of Chalion Paperback – 1 Jul 2002
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|Paperback, 1 Jul 2002||
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In The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold abandons her usual military space-opera for good reason; this is an emotionally powerful, inventively plotted novel which needs to be fantasy to work. Cazaril, betrayed by his enemies into a crippling two years in the galleys, returns to court a physical and emotional wreck: appointed secretary-tutor to the young princess Iselle, he finds himself in direct opposition to his powerful betrayers. His preparedness to make the ultimate sacrifice and save Iselle from an unwanted marriage to one of them by a death spell that will kill him also has unforeseen results; he learns the hard way that the gods have plans for him, ingenious and mischievous plans.
Bujold does charm very well--we share Cazaril's sheer joy at mentoring the bright snippy Iselle--and she is also good at physical and emotional pain--Cazaril's sense of himself as broken and worn-out is entirely convincing. This is also a fantasy which includes some inventive thinking about the nature of gods and the consequences of curses; there is a nasty-minded logic to almost everything that happens here. Bujold's fans will read it without recommendation; many readers who have resisted the Vorkosigan books will find this an attractive and intelligent fantasy. --Roz Kaveney
"Fresh, intriguing, and as always from Lois McMaster Bujold, superb."
Robert Jordan, New York Times best selling author of The Wheel of Time Series
“Bujold continues to prove what marvels genius can create out of basic space operatics.”
"This is one of the great ones."
Science Fiction Chronicle
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Top Customer Reviews
The protagonist, Cazaril, has had a tough life, culminating in a long stretch at the oars of a slave galley. When he is finally rescued, he makes for the castle where he had a happy period in his childhood, serving as a page. He hopes that the lady of the castle will remember him, and give him a nice, comfortable, safe position, where he can recuperate from his assorted physical and psychic injuries in peace. Of course, knowing Bujold, you just know that comfort, safety, and peace are the last things Cazaril is going to find. What we find in these pages is a new Bujold hero, every bit as worthy to carry on the tradition of her brilliant characters as Miles Vorkosigan and Leo Graf.
Having escaped the slavery that he was betrayed into, Cazaril returns home a broken man. He is appointed tutor to the spirited Royesse Iselle, whose fierce intelligence and infectious passion for life gives him back some of the joy he has lost, and a purpose - protecting her, whatever the cost to himself. Gradually, he becomes aware of a terrible curse afflicting the royal family, and determines to lift it.
The curse itself is a fascinating creation, one intimately bound up in the nature of the world Bujold has created. The gods are very much active forces, here, and consequences resonate through generations. Curse and story alike unfold in unexpected, occasionally shocking directions, resulting in a quite brilliant portrait of how desperation can warp even the strongest fidelity.
The characters are engaging and most are well-rounded, each bringing their own histories and secrets to the story, which unfold naturally with the narrative. Their pain - physical and emotional - is believable and affecting.
Even over 400 pages, the novel doesn't quite retain its momentum; the pacing is a little uneven and the ending a little unsatisfying (to me, at least). Nevertheless, this is a gripping and intriguing tale that I couldn't put down.
Using some believable characters who do not easily fit the stereotypes, taking time to build up those characters to the point where the reader's imagination breathes life into them, and giving them a well thought-out world and theology to interact with, while telling a story that relies on intrigue and politic for its thrills - and thrills are plentiful - instead of swords and sorcery, Bujold has written a captivating book that was a true joy to read.
The stereotypes do creep in in the second half of the book, but never in a way that feels contrived. It is hard to recommend the Curse of Chalion enough. Unputdownable.
This is a new series, certain to be compared with Bujold's Vorkosigan saga and likely to disappoint by comparison so try to avoid doing so. It's set mainly in a country reminiscent of fourteenth century Spain. My main disappointment was that it was a little too reminiscent, strongly recalling the early life and marriage of Isabella of Castille. The historical parallels and religious reflections near the end rather overshadowed the fantasy component, which displayed less originality than I'd expect from a writer of Bujold's stature. Many of the characters too, although sympathetic, lacked depth, the two exceptions being Cazaril and his Roknari counterpart; both of whom I hope we will see more of. Cazaril is an interesting but initially reluctant hero; physically, mentally and emotionally scarred after mistreatment. The opening scene in which he strips the clothes from a bloated corpse because they are finer than his own rags and his devotion to his beloved's nose were rare glimpses of the brilliance familiar from the Vorkosigan saga. Hopefully, this series will grow to match that one in originality, plotlines and characterisation. "Curse of Chalion" is not her best book and may disappoint existing fans, but it's an intriguing opening on a new world, highly readable and despite flaws, still surpasses the work of many other authors.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've read this book numerous times since it first came out and I still love it. The characterisation is sublime. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Spyro
Hands down the best fantasy novel of all time. This is a fantasy for older readers, as the many insights would go unappreciated by a person of limited life experience. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Fayley
smooth and rich,dramatic and enjoyable .Book copy in excellent condition,clivePublished 20 months ago by clive hooper
I have the soft back copy of this book and have read it numerous times but decided that I had to have a copy for my kindle too. Read morePublished on 7 Feb. 2014 by Mr. M. Hatherell
This is one of my favorite books. I've got the soft back version and purchased the kindle version to go with it. Read morePublished on 2 Feb. 2014 by Tracey Neale
I read this after the Hallowed Hunt. It helped to understand the gods but I really enjoyed this book and would have without the prior knowledge gleaned from the Hallowed Hunt.Published on 28 Oct. 2013 by Flustered Parent
This is my favourite book - I have read it many times and at long last it's on the kindle. It varies from many fantasy novels in that the hero isn't some untried youth but a man... Read morePublished on 14 Aug. 2013 by Amazon Customer
<i>The Curse of Chalion</i> is an excellent theological fantasy that has not readily been available in the UK previously. Read morePublished on 20 July 2013 by Katrina Allis