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The Curse of Chalion (Chalion Series #1)

The Curse of Chalion (Chalion Series #1)

4.6 82
by Lois McMaster Bujold

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In a dazzling display of invention and storytelling, the incomparable Lois McMaster Bujold offers us the razor-keen edge of a very different sword...

The Curse of Chalion

On the eve of the Daughter's Day — the grand celebration that will honor the Lady of Spring, one of the five reigning deities — a man broken in body and spirit makes his way


In a dazzling display of invention and storytelling, the incomparable Lois McMaster Bujold offers us the razor-keen edge of a very different sword...

The Curse of Chalion

On the eve of the Daughter's Day — the grand celebration that will honor the Lady of Spring, one of the five reigning deities — a man broken in body and spirit makes his way slowly down the road to Valenda. A former courtier and soldier, Cazaril has survived indignity and horrific torture as a slave aboard an enemy galley. Now he seeks nothing more than a menial job in the kitchens of the Dowager Provincara, in the noble household where he served as page in his youth.

But the gods have greater plans for this humbled man. Welcomed warmly, clothed and fed, he is named, to his great surprise, secretary tutor to the Royesse Iselle — the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is destined to be the next ruler of the land. But the assignment must ultimately carry Cazaril to the one place he fears even more than the sea: to the royal court of Cardegoss, rife with intrigues and lethal treacheries.

In Cardegoss, the powerful enemies who once placed Cozoril in chains and bound him to a Roknori oar now occupy the most lofty positions in the realm, beneath only the Roya himself. Yet something for more sinister than their scheming hangs like a sword over the royal family: a curse of the blood that taints not only those who would rule, but those who stand in their circle. The life and future of both Iselle and her entire blighted House of Cholion lie in dire peril. The only recourse left to her loyal, damaged servant is the employment of the darkest and most forbidden ofmagics — a choice that Will indelibly mark Cazaril as a tool of the miraculous ... and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death for as long as he dares walk the five-fold pathway of the gods.

Only Robert A. Heinlein has won more Hugo Awards for Best Novel than Lois McMaster Bujold, a singularly lauded author whose work has been compared to Jane Austen's. Now channeling her remarkable storytelling genius in an exciting new direction, she creates a riveting tale rich in atmosphere, magic, character, and consequence that twists and turns in unanticipated ways. Much more than simply the next eagerly awaited tour de force by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion is a stunning masterwork of fantastic invention that demonstrates the vast range of her astonishing tolents — and elevates her into the pantheon of premier contemporary fantasists.

Editorial Reviews

“Bujold continues to prove what marvels genius can create out of basic space operatics.”
ALA Booklist
“Nicely detailed and wittily accented...Here’s hoping it launches a series of tales as well told as the Vorkosigan volumes.”
Science Fiction Chronicle
"This is one of the great ones."
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.
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
ALA Booklist (starred review)
“Nicely detailed and wittily accented...Here’s hoping it launches a series of tales as well told as the Vorkosigan volumes.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Chalion Series , #1
Product dimensions:
6.58(w) x 11.04(h) x 1.09(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

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...

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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Curse of Chalion 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Cnichal More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
fantaphile More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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).
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Buy it. You won't regret the purchase.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The novel was a wonderful opening to a series but can stand alone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding adventure, characters, world, portrait of human strength and weakness, and at least from my laywoman's perspective, also a mindblowing study in true spirituality via fantasy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and great characterization. I intend to read more of this author. She has another fan.
CinSim More than 1 year ago
This is one of my ten favorite books, and Cazeril, the main character, one of my favorite fictional people. The characterizations and the world-building are superb. I love pretty much everything this author writes, but this is my top pick. With almost a Spanish-medieval feel to the world, themes of honor, bravery, devotion, and courage pervade the book. I love the gradual reveal of Cazeril's character, as how he sees himself at the beginning does not match the clearer view of those who know him. I also enjoy the sister book, Paladin of Souls, which features a middle aged woman finally coming into her own.
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One of my favorites
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