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.
- Hugo Awards
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. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 30, 2002
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Excerpt from The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
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 "