Monday, August 21, 2006

Paladin of Souls

By Lois McMaster Bujold. Sequel of sorts to The Curse of Chalion.

For some reason The Curse of Chalion reminded me of Juliet Marillier's books, although I was later not sure whether it was the contents or the cover art of the two sequels which did it.

If the content is responsible, doubtlessly one aspect that reminded me of Marillier is the clear presence of the supernatural. Unlike other books with artificial and false religions, the gods in this world (in both Curse and Paladin of Souls) show up very clearly and have a well-defined relationship with the material world: they can do nothing to affect it without a willing embodied accomplice, in fact. Usually. The seductiveness of their appearance is one of the dangers of reading this book.

However, I was laughing most of the way through (or chuckling or giggling or snorting, at least) because of the dry and often black humour. Ista was introduced in The Curse of Chalion but played only a secondary part, as part of a royal family hobbled by a curse going back a few generations. (SPOILER for The Curse of Chalion): As of Paladin of Souls, she has been freed of the curse, but scarcely knows what to do with herself. So, she goes on a pilgrimage and finds rather more of the gods than she wanted, especially considering she wanted to get away from them. The results are often, perhaps unintentionally, hilarious. Maybe it's just me.

I found this a fairly quick read, in parts because Ista is an interesting character, sympathetic, having lost about half her life to the curse (she married into it at age 18 or so), and drily humorous. It's especially funny how everyone touched by the gods tries to tell everyone who wants to be but hasn't been that they are much better off the way they are, and none of them ever listens.

I don't think I found The Curse of Chalion quite as entertaining; although it was somehow still an unreasonably attractive and interesting story, it didn't have as much levity as Paladin of Souls. But like I said, it could just be me and my exhaustion speaking. (It's the second book I read today, the first being War for the Oaks, which probably deserves its reputation as a classic. If I had to rank them, I'd say War for the Oaks is more worth checking out, but I don't think I'll write a post about it until tomorrow.)

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