One of the most honored authors in the field of fantasy and science fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold transports us once more to a dark and troubled land and embroils us in a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm.Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets -- for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road -- escape -- beckons. . . . A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of all Chalion.Yet something else is free, too -- something beyond deadly. To the north lies the vital border fortress of Porifors. Memories linger there as well, of wars and invasions and the mighty Golden General of Jokona. And someone, something, watches from across that border -- humans, demons, gods.Ista thinks her little party of pilgrims wanders at will. But whose? When Ista's retinue is unexpectedly set upon not long into its travels, a mysterious ally appears -- a warrior nobleman who fights like a berserker. The temporary safety of her enigmatic champion's castle cannot ease Ista's mounting dread, however, when she finds his dark secrets are entangled with hers in a net of the gods' own weaving.In her dreams the threads are already drawing her to unforeseen chances, fateful meetings, fearsome choices. What the inscrutable gods commanded of her in the past brought her land to the brink of devastation. Now, once again, they have chosen Ista as their instrument. And again, for good or for ill, she must comply.
- Hugo Awards
In this sequel to The Curse of Chalion (2001), rich in sumptuous detail and speculative theology, dowager royina Ista Dy Baocia undertakes a pilgrimage to ease her soul-and finds instead that in Chalion, Bujold's handsomely crafted fantasy world ruled by Five Gods "just around some strange corner of perception," a more dangerous fate awaits than she could ever have imagined. Swordplay and sorcery sweep sensitive, sensible 40-year-old Ista into Chalion's border stronghold of Porifors, where enemy Roknari incursions and demons from the Fifth God's hell threaten Ista's realm, held precariously at bay by the charismatic Arhys dy Lutez. Ista's romantic quest to save Arhys and his magnetic half-brother, Illvin, teems with equal parts of unearthly magic and down-to-earth quasi-medieval lore. Despite an occasional lapse into adolescent angst and spurts of superficial dialogue, high fantasy fans should thrill at Ista's spiritual perils, while horse admirers of all ages should savor even Ista's saddle sores. This engaging installment of Chalion's mythical history whets the appetite for new marvels yet to come. Author tour. (Sept. 23) FYI: Bujold has won both Hugo and Nebula awards. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Great protagonist, great story
Posted September 24, 2011 by Rachel , RaleighI loved this book. It's the first Bujold I've read, and it was recommended to me when I expressed a wish for more fantasy and SF books with women protagonists who are NOT young, beautiful, sassy, snarky, and trying to choose among multiple sexy suitors -- these days, usually vampires or werewolves. I wanted to see a protagnist more like me. The person who recommended it also knows that I'm at a difficult point in my life, having spent the last eight years fully focused on caring for someone else and now trying to figure out how to be who I am when I'm not someone's caregiver anymore. It's hard, man, I mean, I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know it would be so confusing.
So I love that Ista, in Paladin of Souls, is in her forties. I love that she isn't described as some stunning beauty, that she's a bit out of shape, that she isn't in love with anyone and doesn't even seem to think it's an option. I love that she has strengths and weaknesses both, I love that sometimes she needs rescuing and sometimes she does it, and she uses whatever power she can, whether it's god-touched or just the power of being the Dowager Royina. She's not all-powerful, but she's strong, and that's better.
I love that the story is about her learning to be who she is now, instead of who she was. I love that it's about her finding her power, finding her own agency, finding out how to reclaim herself and her life. I love that the love story -- which is there -- isn't central. It comes about because of events, and it's part of Ista coming alive again but is not the cause of that, not at ALL.
I would read ALL the Ista stories. Alas, I think this is the only one. I'll definitely be looking for more Bujold, though.
--- (You know what I hate, though? Is that I can't figure out how to get paragraph breaks in here.)
October 13, 2009
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
Ista leaned forward between the crenellations atop the gate tower, the stone gritty beneath her pale hands, and watched in numb exhaustion as the final mourning party cleared the castle gate below. Their horses' hooves scraped on the old cobblestones, and their goodbyes echoed in the portal's vaulting. Her earnest brother, the provincar of Baocia, and his family and retinue were last of the many to leave, two full weeks after the divines had completed the funeral rites and ceremonies of the interment.
Dy Baocia was still talking soberly to the castle warder, Ser dy Ferrej, who walked at his stirrup, grave face upturned, listening to the stream, no doubt, of final instructions. Faithful dy Ferrej, who had served the late Dowager Provincara for all the last two decades of her long residence here in Valenda. The keys of the castle and keep glinted from the belt at his stout waist. Her mother's keys, which Ista had collected and held, then turned over to her older brother along with all the other papers and inventories and instructions that a great lady's death entailed. And that he had handed back for permanent safekeeping not to his sister, but to good, old, honest dy Ferrej. Keys to lock out all danger ... and, if necessary, Ista in.
It's only habit, you know. I'm not mad anymore, really.
It wasn't as though she wanted her mother's keys, nor her mother's life that went with them. She scarcely knew what she wanted. She knew what she feared -- to be locked up in some dark, narrow place by people who loved her. An enemy might drop his guard, weary of his task, turn his back; love would never falter. Her fingers rubbed restlessly on the stone.
Dy Baocia's cavalcade filed off down the hill through the town and was soon lost from her view among the crowded red-tiled roofs. Dy Ferrej, turning back, walked wearily in through the gate and out of sight.
The chill spring wind lifted a strand of Ista's dun hair and blew it across her face, catching on her lip; she grimaced and tucked it back into the careful braiding wreathing her head. Its tightness pinched her scalp.
The weather had warmed these last two weeks, too late to ease an old woman bound to her bed by injury and illness. If her mother had not been so old, the broken bones would have healed more swiftly, and the inflammation of the lungs might not have anchored itself so deeply in her chest. If she had not been so fragile, perhaps the fall from the horse would not have broken her bones in the first place. If she had not been so fiercely willful, perhaps she would not have been on that horse at all at her age ... Ista looked down to find her fingers bleeding, and hid them hastily in her skirt.
In the funeral ceremonies, the gods had signed that the old lady's soul had been taken up by the Mother of Summer, as was expected and proper. Even the gods would not dare violate her views on protocol. Ista imagined the old Provincara ordering heaven, and smiled a little grimly.
And so I am alone at last.
Ista considered the empty spaces of that solitude, its fearful cost. Husband, father, son, and mother had all filed down to the grave ahead of her in their turn. Her daughter was claimed by the royacy of Chalion in as tight an embrace as any grave, and as little likely to return from her high place, five gods willing, as the others from their low ones. Surely I am done. The duties that had defined her, all accomplished. Once, she had been her parents' daughter. Then great, unlucky Ias's wife. Her children's mother. At the last, her mother's keeper. Well, I am none of these things now.