Tuesday 8 February 2011

CBR3 Book 11: "The Curse of Chalion" by Lois McMaster Bujold

Publisher: HarperTorch
Page count: 502 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Date begun: February 1st, 2011
Date finished: February 6th, 2011

The country of Chalion has been at war for a long time, and Castillar Cazaril has suffered more than many. After the fortress he was in charge of was surrendered to the enemy, an alleged clerical error caused him to be left of the ransom lists, and instead of being returned home with his soldiers, he was sold into slavery and lived two years as a galley slave for the enemy, nearly dying in the process. When he finally returns home to Chalion, he is scarred both physically and mentally. He returns to the household where he once served as a page, and the is welcomed by the elderly Provencara, who decides that his many adventures and previous courtly experience makes him a perfect secretary-tutor for her headstrong and willful young granddaughter, half-sister to the ruler of Chalion.

Cazaril is grateful for the post, and hopes that in the rural outskirts, he will be safe from the court intrigue. But the roya (king) of Chalion is childless, and sends for his younger half-siblings. Cazaril has to go with Iselle and her brother, the Heir to the throne, to court, and there he won't be able to escape the notice of the noblemen who betrayed him. The same nobles now hold a lot of power, and Carazil has his work cut out for him, trying to keep his young mistress from their grasp, and to save her from being taken over by the insidious curse that lies over the royal family.

A friend of mine loves Lois McMaster Bujold, and has been nagging me to read something by her for years. I'd read several very positive reviews of her work. As it is, I liked The Curse of Chalion, but I wasn't exactly filled with "where has this book been all my life?" Cazaril is an interesting protagonist, and he sure has a sucky backstory. The historical Spain-inspired world, the magic and the religion of Chalion is all cool, too, but it took me a while to get into the book, and even when I was invested in seeing where it was going, I found bits of the story a bit confusing. I would also have liked to see both Iselle and Beatriz (the object of Cazaril's affection) developed slightly more as characters, it seems to me that Bujold was more interested in the the male characters. A good book, but it didn't wow me as much as my friend and internet hype suggested it should. Still, I'll get through the rest of the trilogy at some point this year.


  1. Your comments are valid and I do not hate you for them. The second one in the series (Paladin of Souls) is the strongest, and the one with the greatest inversion of fantasy tropes in it; it's a direct sequel to CoC. I'm glad that you read it and enjoyed it though :D even if it wasn't as much as I wanted for you :(

  2. I didn't hate it, I really didn't, and I will absolutely read both Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt (both of which I have on my bookshelf as well). But as they seem to be quite self-contained, I'm not planning on reading them right this minute. I suspect it was more that it was slightly different from what I was expecting, and not entirely what I was looking for in a book right now.

    I will absolutely try more Bujold, and if I can get over my aversion to sci-fi, I may even try her Vorkosigan saga, which many people on the internet seem to rave about.