Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Curse of Chalion

I finished The Curse of Chalion (by Lois McMaster Bujold) tonight (I really wanted to finish it last night, but it wasn't going to happen... I still had 120 pages left at midnight). And I must say, first off: read this one before you read Paladin of Souls. I don't know what I was thinking. True, they aren't direct sequels, but this one definitely comes first, and reading Paladin of Souls first ruins a lot of the surprises in Curse of Chalion. Plus I am now doubly certain that the learning curve is much more doable when read in order.

That all being said, I enjoyed Curse of Chalion quite a bit. I find the theology that Bujold created for the world to be really fascinating, especially when you consider how thoroughly it permeates the entire culture. It's an excellent example of how to integrate that aspect of world building for anyone who has been struggling with that in their own writing. One of the coolest things Bujold does with this is she uses it to bring up interesting questions about fate - if I am a means by which the gods can affect the world, how much of what I do is really me, and how much is them making me do something? How far back does their influence really extend in setting me on this path? Awesome stuff. I can't do it justice, but it definitely makes for a fascinating read (without getting too heavy handed either).

I also really enjoyed how she was able to portray characters as normal people thrust into hard situations. The character growth was almost as good as in Paladin of Souls (if not just as good) and I liked how I was able to relate to them even though they were in a vastly different world and deeply entangled in a web of court politics. The magic/theology affected them on every page, but it didn't obscure them. I don't know if that makes any sense...

Lastly, I liked the love story (no wait, stories) a lot. I like my romance in books in small quantities, not bashing me over the head.

Anyway, enough of my blathering on about that; go read it next time you're in the mood for epic fantasy, court intrigue, a good clean love story, or anything else along those lines. I promise it's worth a whirl.

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