The Curse of Chalion [NOOK Book]


A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains ...

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The Curse of Chalion

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A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge -- an act that will mark him as a tool of the miraculous . . . and trap him in a lethal maze of demonic paradox.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
One of military science fiction's most honored practitioners, Lois McMaster Bujold embarks in a new direction. This full-throttled epic fantasy shows that the master of the Miles Vorkosigan novels can shift authorial gears with grace and ease.
Robert Jordan
Fresh, intriguing, and as always from Lois McMaster Bujold, superb.
Science Fiction Chronicle
This is one of the great ones.
As a former courtier and soldier, the man on the road to Valenda is almost unrecognizable. Broken and scarred, Cazaril has survived the torturous life of a slave in the enemy galleys only to find himself without a home and with only the hope that someone might recognize him and give him shelter in the castle where he once worked as a page. He is taken in and given a job, not in the kitchen or the stables as he had hoped but rather as the personal secretary of the Royesse Iselle, the sister of the next ruler of the land. His hopes of quietly living out the rest of his days are dashed when he becomes inextricably involved in the political intrigue and magical curses that surround the royal family. Cazaril finds himself drawn between the will of the gods and the wills of the men around him as he struggles to assure that the throne will go to a just heir and that the crown will not be thrown to the very men who schemed to enslave him many years before. Subtle yet powerful language raises this fantasy above most others in its genre, making it impossible to put down. The interplay of will and destiny creates a thoughtful novel, while the crashing swords and the dark magical powers make it an exciting read. With its challenging vocabulary and artful writing style, Bujold's latest novel might just be what older Harry Potter fans are yearning for. VOYA CODES:5Q 5P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written;Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12;Adult and Young Adult). 2001, EOS/HarperCollins, 442p, $25. Ages 15 to Adult. Reviewer:Heather Hepler—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
Library Journal
Betrayed by an unknown enemy into slavery, former soldier and courtier Lupe dy Cazaril escapes his bondage and returns to the royal household he once served. Entrusted with the teaching of the sister to the heir to the throne of Chalion, Cazaril finds himself drawn into a tangled web of politics and dark magic as he battles a curse that threatens the lives and souls of a family he has come to love. The author of the "Vorkosigan" series of dynastic sf turns her hand as competently and engagingly to the fantasy genre in a tale of quiet heroism and self-sacrifice. Compelling characters and richly detailed world building make this a strong addition to fantasy collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Iselle, the royesse (princess) of Chalion, and her lady-in-waiting, Bertriz, need a new tutor. Cazaril, the man chosen for the job, has been scarred, physically and mentally, from secret betrayals by the very people who now rule Chalion through Iselle's uncle, and who seek to control her younger brother, the heir, as well. To rescue the royesse, and save Chalion, Cazaril must play matchmaker between Iselle and the prince of another realm, fight off assassins, lift a century-old curse, and risk everything-learning not to run from his own love for Bertriz-along the way. Bujold weaves a convincing and captivating fantasy world, well researched, with magic that works and gods that live without destroying the balance of this medieval society. Cazaril's life is rich with detail, and plays a part in the conclusion. The villains are believably motivated. The young heroines are deeply sympathetic characters as well. Readers will find themselves rooting for the good guys, while still uncertain that all can end without at least one of them suffering a dire fate. A finely balanced mixture of adventure, swordplay, court intrigue, romance, magic, and religion makes this book a delightful read.-Paul Brink, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fantasy venture from the author of the Miles Vorkosigan military-family science fiction series (A Civil Campaign, 1999, etc.). Warrior-diplomat-courtier Cazaril, having been sold into slavery following a disastrous military campaign, finally makes his way home to Valenda after many taxing adventures. To his surprise, he's offered the position of secretary-tutor to "Royesse" (Princess) Iselle and her companion, Lady Betriz. With the monarch, Orico, ailing, running things are the evil dy Jironal brothers, Chancellor Martous and army chief General Dondo (though it may be a while before readers realize there are two of them. One, or both, betrayed Cazaril). Orico's indisposition stems from the Curse of Chalion, which sooner or later dooms all members of the royal family. Martous, meanwhile, persuades weak-willed Orico that the horrid Dondo must wed Iselle; appalled, Iselle pleads and shrieks to no avail. Cazaril, sworn to protect and serve Iselle, cannot permit this. But his attempt to use death magic-Cazaril's death in exchange for Dondo's-ends bizarrely, with Cazaril still alive, thanks to Iselle's fervent prayers to the Lady, but Dondo's soul bound to a death-demon and encysted in Cazaril's entrails as a tumor! Furthermore, he now finds he has otherworldly vision and has become a living saint! Boilerplate fantasy, with characters too often indistinguishable and, later, the deflating disclosure that everything that happens is some sort of divine plot. Overall, no better than average, but probably adequate for Bujold fans. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061793042
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Series: Chalion Series , #1
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 75,820
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

One of the most respected writers in the field of speculative fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold burst onto the scene in 1986 with Shards of Honor, the first of her tremendously popular Vorkosigan Saga novels. She has received numerous accolades and prizes, including two Nebula Awards for best novel (Falling Free and Paladin of Souls), four Hugo Awards for Best Novel (Paladin of Souls, The Vor Game, Barrayar, and Mirror Dance), as well as the Hugo and Nebula Awards for her novella The Mountains of Mourning. Her work has been translated into twenty-one languages. The mother of two, Bujold lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Chapter One

Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them. He glanced over his shoulder. The well-worn track behind him curled up around a rolling rise, what passed for a hill on these high windy plains, before dipping again into the late-winter muck of Baocia's bony soil. At his feet a little rill, too small and intermittent to rate a culvert or a bridge, trickled greenly across the track from the sheep-cropped pastures above. The thump of hooves, jangle of harness, clink of bells, creak of gear and careless echo of voices came on at too quick a rhythm to be some careful farmer with a team, or parsimonious pack-men driving their mules.

The cavalcade trotted around the side of the rise riding two by two, in full panoply of their order, some dozen men. Not bandits — Cazaril let out his breath, and swallowed his unsettled stomach back down. Not that he had anything to offer bandits but sport. He trudged a little way off the track and turned to watch them pass.

The horsemen's chain shirts were silvered, glinting in the watery morning sunlight, for show, not for use. Their tabards of blue, dyes almost matching one with another, were worked with white in the sigil of the Lady of Spring. Their gray cloaks were thrown back like banners in the breeze of their passing, pinned at their shoulders with silver badges that had all the tarnish polished off today. Soldier-brothers of ceremony, not of war; they would have no desire to get Cazaril's stubborn bloodstains on those clothes.

To Cazaril's surprise, their captain held up a hand as they came near.The column crashed raggedly to a halt, the squelch and suck of the hooves trailing off in a way that would have had Cazaril's father's old horse-master bellowing grievous and entertaining insults at such a band of boys as this. Well, no matter.

"You there, old fellow," the leader called across the saddlebow of his banner-carrier at Cazaril.

Cazaril, alone on the road, barely kept his head from swiveling around to see who was being so addressed. They took him for some local farm lout, trundling to market or on some errand, and he supposed he looked the part: worn boots mud-weighted, a thick jumble of mismatched charity clothes keeping the chill southeast wind from freezing his bones. He was grateful to all the gods of the year's turning for every grubby stitch of that fabric, eh. Two weeks of beard itching his chin. Fellow indeed. The captain might with justice have chosen more scornful appellations. But...old?

The captain pointed down the road to where another track crossed it. "Is that the road to Valenda?"

It had been...Cazaril had to stop and count it in his head, and the sum dismayed him. Seventeen years since he had ridden last down this road, going off not to ceremony but to real war in the provincar of Baocia's train. Although bitter to be riding a gelding and not a finer warhorse, he'd been just as glossy-haired and young and arrogant and vain of his dress as the fine young animals up there staring down at him. Today, I should be happy for a donkey, though I had to bend my knees to keep from trailing my toes in the mud. Cazaril smiled back up at the soldier-brothers, fully aware of what hollowed-out purses lay gaping and disemboweled behind most of those rich facades.

They stared down their noses at him as though they could smell him from there. He was not a person they wished to impress, no lord or lady who might hand down largesse to them as they might to him; still, he would do for them to practice their aristocratic airs upon. They mistook his returning stare for admiration, perhaps, or maybe just for half-wittedness.

He bit back the temptation to steer them wrong, up into some sheep byre or wherever that deceptively broad-looking crossroad petered out. No trick to pull on the Daughter's own guardsmen on the eve of the Daughter's Day. And besides, the men who joined the holy military orders were not especially noted for their senses of humor, and he might pass them again, being bound for the same town himself Cazaril cleared his throat, which hadn't spoken to a man since yesterday. "No, Captain. The road to Valenda has a roya's milestone." Or it had, once. "A mile or three farther on. You can't mistake it." He pulled a hand out of the warmth of the folds of his coat, and waved onward. His fingers didn't really straighten right, and he found himself waving a claw. The chill air bit his swollen joints, and he tucked his hand hastily back into its burrow of cloth.

The captain nodded at his banner-carrier, a thick-shouldered...fellow, who cradled his banner pole in the crook of his elbow and fumbled out his purse. He fished in it, looking no doubt for a coin of sufficiently small denomination. He had a couple brought up to the light, between his fingers, when his horse jinked. A coin — a gold royal, not a copper vaida — spurted out of his grip and spun down into the mud. He stared after it, aghast, but then controlled his features. He would not dismount in front of his fellows to grub in the muck and retrieve it. Not like the peasant he expected Cazaril to be: for consolation, he raised his chin and smiled sourly, waiting for Cazaril to dive frantically and amusingly after this unexpected windfall.

Instead, Cazaril bowed and intoned, "May the blessings of the Lady of Spring fall upon your head, young sir, in the same spirit as your bounty to a roadside vagabond, and as little begrudged."

If the young soldier-brother had...

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 80 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 80 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    A brilliant departure for a beloved author

    Award-winning science-fiction author Lois McMaster Bujold turns her pen to the fantasy genre, with breathtaking results. Lord Cazaril has been in turn courier, courtier, castle-warder, and captain; now he is but a crippled ex-galley slave making his way across a countryside reminiscent of Renaissance Spain, hoping to beg a warm hearth and a scullion¿s position from the noble patroness of his youth. But Fortune¿s wheel continues to turn for Cazaril, and he finds himself in short order promoted to the exalted¿and dangerous¿position of secretary-tutor to the Iselle, the beautiful, fiery sister of the heir to Chalion¿s throne. Amidst the decaying splendor and poisonous intrigue of Chalion¿s ancient fortress capital, Cazaril encounters both old enemies and surprising allies, as he seeks to lift the curse of misfortune that clings to the royal family of Chalion, and to all who come too close to them. While the novel can ¿ and should ¿ be appreciated as a rousing tale of romance and adventure, Bujold deftly weaves sophisticated speculation on the nature of free will and destiny in the guise of an intriguing mythology, underpinned by a constant subtle evocation of potent symbolic archetypes. Chalion is a beautifully constructed world, both warmly familiar and achingly distant; it breaths hints of shores yet unseen, stories yet to be told, without burdening the reader with a weary litany of exotic names and historical background. Supernatural power and events are carefully derived from the intrinsic nature of the world, displaying the simple inevitability of a chemical reaction ¿ with consequences just as devastating. Bujold, justly celebrated for her complex characterization, excels in her portrayal of the observant, sardonic, devoted Cazaril, and provides him with a rich and appealing cast of supporting characters. She avoids the twin temptations of making her heroes too nobly pure or her villains too blackly malevolent, allowing even the smallest character to emerge as recognizably human. For, with all the her grand canvas of nations and gods and fates, it is humanity ¿ in all its shame and glory ¿ that Bujold celebrates, and readers will be swept along to rejoice in their own. Ignore the mean-spirited professional reviewers above. *This* professional reviewer would say that _The Curse of Chalion_ is very possibly a masterpiece.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2012


    I couldn't stop reading this! It follows the requisites for fantasy. 1. Curses - check! 2. A broken hero to lift the curse - check! 3. Clever wit and intrigue! - check! I love how Lois McMaster Bujold, doesn't seem to know HOW to write a story with a leading lady, who is weak willed. There is plenty of cleaver dialog, with plots that are well laid out, and beautiful scenery. The story never felt rush or improbable; I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotion! All of their pain, my pain. Their fear my fear. But alas (thankfully!) their joy was my joy! I was just so full of feeling... I no longer have any words to describe them with... A must read! ....and re-read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2012

    Three thumbs up

    The Curse of Chalion is a carefully planned and beautifully executed book that is witty, funny, though-provoking, exciting, and imaginative. The world of Chalion's pantheon is interesting and also well though-out, and its protagonists are believable and lovable. Although its title implies a cliched novel full of cursed princesses and evil witches, its story line rethinks, enhances and almost ridicules the stereotypical fantasy that tries to define the genre. I highly recommend it to all fantasy-lovers and fans of Bujold's other work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2007


    I've read Bujold's SF books and quite frankly thought they were contrived and shallow. Chalion completely reversed my judgement of her as an author. The book is fantastic thoughtful, well written, and exciting. This is a great book, so is the next one, Paladin of Souls. Definitely for an older reader (my opinion).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2003


    This is the first book I have read by Lois McMaster Bujold and it will certainly not be the last. The Curse of Chalion draws you in from the first chapter with well developed characters and vivid descriptions and does not let you go. It is rare to find fantasy novels that are not parts of a series and even more rare to find a book of such high quality!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2001

    An incredible book

    I¿ve been reading Lois¿ Vorkosigan series just this side of forever. So, it didn¿t take much to get me to buy Curse of Chalion. And once again she delivered on an excellent, exciting, thinking novel. I loved the Spanish influenced background, which after a surfeit of celtic influenced fantasy was a breath of sweet exotic air. And plenty of interesting intrigue to go around. The main character, Cazaril, is a witty and fully fleshed person. Even the villains are fully developed. The central mystery of the story draws you in and won¿t let you put the book down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    A wonderful, 3-dimensional fantasy!

    I've long been a fan of Bujold's Vorkosigan series, but I never warmed to her other fantasy, The Spirit Ring, the way I did to the Miles stories.<br> This latest work by the three-time Hugo winner has convinced me that she just needed more practice in the genre to really hit her stride. Chalion is a real, 3-dimensional world, very loosely based on late-medieval Spain. The characters are (as always with Bujold) 3-dimensional and the hero's trials and soul-scars are achingly real.<br> Bujold's justly-famous wry humor has found a perfect vehicle in her hero, Cazaril, an ex-soldier, ex-courtier, ex-courier and ex-galley slave who wants only to sink into peaceful, quiet obscurity-- but for whom the gods have other plans.<br> Don't be discouraged by the apparently slow start of the book's first two chapters... there's a lot more going on there than you realize at the time, so pay close attention. You'll be glad you did later when events start accumulating momentum and the rabbits the author stuffed into hats in the first chapters start jumping out of them at surprising moments.<br> In addition to an interesting cast of characters and a lively and complex culture Bujold has created a fascinating religion with five very activist dieties who nevertheless are constrained by (among other things) their need for their human tools to offer their services willingly before the gods can overtly act through them.<br> This book is a good bit darker than many of her earlier works-- it has an emotional weight similar to that of Mirror Dance or Memory-- but she has the ability to put her characters in dark places without making you feel they have no hope.<br> Buy it. You won't regret the purchase.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2014

    One of my favorites

    One of my favorites

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Rare 5 stars.

    This book at several point had me clinging to my seat in dread/excitment. The world created here is very interesting as is the setup of the gods and how they communicate to the people. It is facinating. The characters are relateable and real...even the ones you hate. Great read. This is my first book by this author and I plan to get a couple more of her writings after getting this taste.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    How to avoid format problems

    Always fetch the free sample before purchasing a book. Then flip through all the pages to the end of the sample. I too found odd formatting for this book, however it affects only the table of contents. The book itself reads just fine. This is too good of a bookto pass up because a review complains of formatting. Also, you can verify that you're not purchasing a foreign language edition before you plunk down your money. I've seen complaints of that too.

    With regard to this book, it's one of my favorites. I highly recomend it. I recomend all of LMB's books for that matter, but especially this one.

    Posted from my Simple Touch.

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  • Posted January 4, 2013

    Like the last two books I bought for my Simple Touch, this one w

    Like the last two books I bought for my Simple Touch, this one was unreadable because the format was one paragraph per line and the lines go off the page. Unless B&amp;N fixes this fault, I'll be buying my books from Amazon or other site and converting. On the other hand, the books can be read on the PC easily, thus defeating the need to buy the Nook in the first place.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012



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  • Posted February 25, 2011

    very good and original. highly recommend.

    it start out a little slow and is a little hard to understand in the begining. excellent book overall. you will probably read it 3 or 4 times in a row.

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  • Posted January 27, 2011

    Highly recommended -Bujold's best work

    A complex but carefully crafted story of triumph over adversity set in a mythical place resembling Spain, but turned upside down. Reading it more than once always seems to reveal some new detail.

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  • Posted March 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fabulous book! A great read.

    The Byronic Cazaril, a former lord and commander in the army of Chalion, has escaped slavery and finally returned to his home country. He travels to the estate he acted as a page at, Valenda, and is instated as the tutor to the passionate Roya Iselle and her lady in waiting, Betriz. Once Iselle and her brother Teidez are called to the royal court as heirs to the throne, Cazaril encounters old enemies and new conspiracies. It is up to Cazaril as the gods' chosen to protect Iselle to save Chalion.

    This was the first book by Bujold that I had ever read, and it will definitely not be the last. She weaves a fantastically thrilling tale full of political intrigue. Her style of writing is smooth and fresh, and I can guarantee that you will be hard pressed to put this book down. I've read it at least 6 or 7 times since the first time and never grow tired of it. I would definitely suggest this to anyone, as well as Paladin of Souls, which takes place after the events of The Curse of Chalion and features Ista, the mother of Iselle.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    rich, creative storytelling, beautifully written

    I loved this book! Great characters, great story...did not like having to ever put it down. The storytelling was very rich and vibrant, beautifully a gourmet meal!

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Day!

    Maybe it is because I tried to start reading this on a long flight, but it was painful getting into this book. I spent the first week forcing my self to read it, hoping it would get better. Alas, it did. A warning to others, the first 1/4 of the book is very slow and does not tie in to the overall book until much later. however, once it does get rolling and the various lines connect, it is a very thrilling and enjoyable book. I have read a lot of fantasy books, and i was pleasantly surprised with the avenues the author used in this book to tell the story. It was 99% unpredictable, and the few things which were, still had a new twist to them. I look forward to finding more treats like this in the future.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    One of my favorite books

    This was the first book by McMaster-Bujold I read. Incredible, I devoured this in one sitting! You will not want to put it down and will be wanting more. I have read this book at least 10 times since I first picked it up several years ago. Paladin of Souls is also an excellent read set in the same world but not quite as good as this one. I have read all her other books and become quite a fan of hers. The Curse of Chalion will always be one my favorite books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    Good, but not great.

    In truth, I would give this book a 3.5. The writing was fresh and excellent enough to keep the story moving with highly developed and witty characters, but the plot could have involved much more detail and excitment. The story deals mostly with courtly politics in a royal setting. When the juicy details of the plot do come around, they last for only a few pages as opposed to the hundreds of pages concerning the main character and his internal illness, although crucial to the story, does not deserve so many pages of detail. Not much of a high fantasy novel with only four or five memorable plot turns, but a decent read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    A step into a world with spirits, Gods and men contesting for a hand in ruling souls, men or countries.

    Ms Bujold is again in good form as she introduces her growing number of readers to a different genre. Gone are the space adventures of the Vorkosigans in their efforts to find a place for Miles to be 'normal', despite his endless involvement in spy games, clashes of ruling classes and galactic powers. Now Ms Bujold introduces her readers to the fasinating land of the Ibran peninsula with its ruling class of royalty, witches, widards, five Gods and the ever present servents. There are souls which have for one reason or another chosen not to find one of the five Gods and of course demons to plague the innocents and not so innocent of men. Our leading charactor is returning from slavery imposed on him after the rest of his men were ransomed back by the nobiliy of the land of Chalion leaving Caz to the tender mercies of the seas and the slave galleons on which he served. We find that the ruling family of the land of Chalion has a curse placed on it which has bedeviled all they have tried to do as well as the land they rule resulting in constant loss of the conflict in which it has been involved. The current 'old' king is in failing health as a result of the family curse and Caz finds himself wanting only to be given a place to serve in the kitchen instead is thrust into the position of being the secretary/tutor to the sister of the next person in line to the throne both suffering from the effects of the family curse. Caz must not only protect the young princess and her serving lady but find a way to release the family from the curse before it claims both of the children in line for the throne. The fast moving pace set by Ms Bujold does nothing to distract from the well written discription of both the people and lands in which the story is set. The charactors are nicely fleshed out and would almost seem to be real at times to the reader. The Gods while being mysterious are not totally hidden from the readers view and each has a place to fill in the story. All in all a well written story which in the following books is nicely finished with a surprise of and ending.

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