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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.

Topics: Royalty, Trilogy, First in a Series, Magical Curses, Alternate Universe, Love, Destiny, Death, Demons, Princesses, Miracles, Journeys, Servants, Saints, Betrayal, Politics, Revenge, Military, Teachers, Medieval Period, Adventurous, Dark, Lush, Female Author, Battles of Succession, and Gods & Goddesses

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061793042
List price: $10.99
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absolutely love this book!more
Excellent book. Liked it so much that I reread it right after I finished it!more
Bujold's gift is to write internally consistent fantasy with well-developed characters.The religion of Chalion makes sense. The rules are established and never broken. It's possible to make intelligent plot predictions (without the story being given away) because the story gives you information (always worked into the plot and never info-dumped) as to what the rules are.If I could write this well, I'd be a very happy woman!more
A nice way to start off the new year--the first book I finished in 2008 turns out to be, I think, a perfect genre novel.

And it's not as easy to write one of those as you might think. You have to give your readers some of the conventions of the genre, because that's usually why they're reading it in the first place. You also have to make it seem fresh, not just a tired rehash of whatever came before.

This book has all the stuff you look for in a political-intrigue-type fantasy (princesses, dark magic, sinister courtiers, etc.) and takes it seriously unlike some of those lame Hey Look At Me Subverting The Conventions writers.

At the same time, it has characters that are more than just chess pieces (imagine, women that are strong but still believable within the society of the period!), and a plot that's kind of like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel--you just jump in and hold on and have faith that it's going to come out all right in the end.more
I believe I read a comment from the author somewhere that this book was her exploration of various issues of religion. That sounds hideously dull to me, but it's actually a pretty fantastic story. Even the sort of throwaway answer to the perennial "why me?" whine is brilliant - basically, "Why do you think we just picked you? You're just the only one who managed to get this far." There was maybe one too many foreseeable coincidence, but it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the story. I'd definitely recommend this to fans of traditional fantasy.more
This is a lovely and engrossing fantasy novel.There are many things to like about The Curse of Chalion, but it is the characters that stand out for me, particularly Cazaril, the unconventional protagonist. At the start of the book, he has just returned from serving time on a slave galley, where he was sold after his name did not show up on the list of men to be ransomed after a siege. Though he is only thirty-five, he feels much older. He is tired, physically and emotionally—certainly not the young farmboy type you encounter in most fantasies and space operas.I also loved the stern, no-nonsense, Provincara, the feisty royesse (or princess) Iselle, her sensible handmaiden Betriz, Caz’s earnest and nosy friend Palli, and the mysterious head groom of the royal bestiary, Umegat.You know a book must be good when it makes you grin from ear to ear. That happened several times with to while reading The Curse of Chalion—once when Cazaril’s innocence is proven by an unusual sort of test, once when an impetuous Iselle confronts her half-brother Orrico and attempts to arrange her own marriage, and once when a figure from Cazaril’s past reappears in a very different guise to aid his plans. I’d like to say more about that last twist, but I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say that it’s amazing. I’m smiling again just from thinking about it.It’s not often that a book leaves me wondering about the author’s personal life, but reading The Curse of Chalion certainly made me want to learn more about Lois McMaster Bujold, specifically the nature of her religious views. The Quintarian pantheon is fascinating, seemingly based on both the seasons of the year and the family unit. It includes five figures: the Father of Winter, the Mother of Summer, the Son of Autumn, the Daughter of Spring, and the Bastard. The Bastard is not included in the pantheons of some surrounding countries, being a Satanic/Plutonic figure in charge of demons and hell, but the Quintarians see him as providing balance, a very Eastern idea. At the same time, much of the theology regarding the interactions between humans and the divine smacks of Christianity, with the Quintarian view of human freedom having a decidedly Armenian slant. (I’ve read that in some of Bujold’s sci-fi, the characters adopt quasi-Calvinist views. At the very least, this author is very familiar with varying strains of Christian thought.)My only complaint is not so much with the book itself as with the way I went about reading it. I did all right for the most part, but I was determined to finish by a certain time and so I read the last hundred and fifty pages or so while in a state of near exhaustion. As a result, the climax and denouement do not shine quite as brightly in my memory as the rest of the book. I’ll have to reread at some point. But I look forward to it, and to reading some of Bujold’s other tales. Recommended.more
Fantasy with a touch of Tolkien. The way in which our hero doesn't really want to be a hero but does what he has to do, reminded me of good old Frodo. Also, the fact that succeeding in completing his mission means going into the darkest of fates makes one think of walking into Mordor.I really enjoyed the development of the characters and the way in which little by little one starts to care about what's going to happen to them.more
Cazaril, a former soldier, returns from foreign imprisonment looking for peace, but the gods have other plans.I loved the medieval Spanish influenced background, which felt new, fresh, a wonderful new world to explore. There was plenty of action (wild horse rides, battles, miracles), court intrigue, and a touch of romance. And plenty of interesting intrigue to go around. The central mystery of the story draws you in and won't let you put the book down.The main character, Cazaril, is a witty and fully fleshed person. But heck with Lois, even the villains are fully developed. I love clever heroes. Characters who are more than thews and a shiny sword.If you like good fantasy. Fully developed characters. Interesting worlds. Good writing and you don't mind missing some sleep, read the book.more
This is a story of sacrifice, in the sense of Making Sacred. It's a story about god-given riddles. It's a world without magic, but with demons and gods who cannot truly act unless invited. (And who manage to be meddlesome from time to time even so.) It is rich, layered, and really awesome. (I like the sequel, Paladin of Souls, a bit better -- but Paladin has spoilers for this one, and this one sets things up so nicely. You should probably read Chalion first.) Get the sample from the ebook version. Read the sample. Get sucked in. (Unless you find it on sale, in which case, BUY IT FAST! Otherwise, you may well be kicking yourself later when it's no longer on sale.)more
I had a hard time getting into this book. It took me a while to read the first quarter of the book. However, once it started moving, I was completely absorbed. I felt like you really got to know each of the characters well. I ended up loving the book, and I'm very glad I finally sat own and made myself finish it. This was my first time reading Bujold and it definitely won't be my last. Cazaril was not your typical hero, but it made him all the more charming. I also really like Royesse Iselle and her best friend Lady Betriz. I definitely plan to read the rest of this series.more
I really enjoyed "The Curse of Chalion." It combines themes of religious mysticism, political machination, high fantasy, and redemption. Cazaril is extremely likable and I became very attached to him and his unintentional quest. Bujold was thorough in mapping out the details of the culture's religion, and all in all the intricacies of the plot were creative and cleverly designed. I'll probably read this book again some day.more
Good tight writing and then the occasional transcendant passage about personal qualities or theology. Wow!more
A couple of years ago I read Cordelia's Honor by Bujold, and although I had no trouble finishing it I was not terribly impressed either with the story or the caliber of the writing. I'm assuming that this series was written later because the first book in the series was very enjoyable with interesting characters and a compelling story well executed. I especially enjoyed the humor injected by the sardonic thoughts of the hero as the story progresses. I am anxiously awaiting starting the second installment and hope it lives up to the first one.more
There are mere fantasy novels, and then there are works of art. This is both. I had never read Bujold's work before, though I've heard a lot about her. This book has made me a convert to her writing.The protagonist of the story is Cazaril, a man broken and battered by life's cruelty. A spiteful lord arranged for him to be sold into slavery, and by whim Cazaril survived. He returns to the land of his youth, looking far older than his age and scarred mentally and physically. This is where the book begins. He becomes a secretary and tutor to the beautiful, headstrong sister of the heir to the throne of Cardegoss. Caz's fondness for his young charges grows, but their connections bring about the thing he dreads most of all: a return to the royal court, and a confrontation with the enemies who doomed him to slavery. When dark magic brings about unusual results, Caz finds out the royal family carries a dreadful curse... and his student, the Royesse, is blighted as well.The story is deep in political intrigue and also in theology. The land of Cardegoss holds an interesting array of gods who are very involved in the lives of their followers--including Cazaril. The writing is eloquent and the story manages to be gripping, even when nothing seems to be happening. The tension is there. The plot fits together better than any puzzle I have ever owned, and the characters...! I loved Cazaril. Even at the beginning, completely broken and mere steps from death, he carries a quiet nobility. The Royesse Iselle and her lady-in-waiting are vivid, brilliant women who don't let society's gender constraints form them to domesticity. The bad guys are truly bad, and yet utterly believable. This book is everything a good fantasy novel should be, and I hated to see it end. This will be one of my favorite books of the year, no question.more
James Lloyd's excellent narration contributed to my thorough enjoyment of the novel.more
'The Curse of Chalion' concerns a minor noble, Castillar Cazaril, who returns home after being rescued from a slave ship, and hopes to find an insignificant position within a castle where he served as a young page. He ends up (slight spoiler!) at the capital, in the king's palace itself, and has to find his way through the maze of political intrigue there.You're thrown in at the deep end, at the beginning, as the first chapter or so introduces us to Cazaril and slowly reveals facts about our hero which the main character, naturally, knows all along. And you have to work through a welter of Spanish sounding ranks, such as royas (kings), royinas (queens), royesses (princesses) and so on. It would also help to know that the five gods of their theology have a real presence, and are not just an abstract.Once I got those sorted out, though, I was captured by the book and couldn't wait to find out what happened next. There was always a sense of danger (political, physical, mental and spiritual) threatening the central characters, and I had to keep reading, to see who survived. Though the hero is a man, there are several strong female leads, as well, and the hero himself is somewhat flawed, being a bit older, at 36, and having suffered the ravages of war (i.e. not tall, dark and handsome). I liked the way all the threads, even seemingly insignificant ones, came together quite tidily, and I felt the theological premise was quite an unusual twist.I recommend it as a page turner.more
This was my first book by Bujold and after reading it I had to hunt up everything else she wrote I could find in stores or failing that borrow them from the library. This book earned a spot in my precious limited shelf space and I've read and enjoyed it more than once (and just writing this review makes me want to pick it up again). Bujold's an exceptional writer and I was pulled in at once; there was never a moment I wanted to put the book down. The protagonist, Cazaril, immediately gained my sympathies--a broken man, he goes to a noblewoman asking for any place in her household and winds up tutor to her granddaughter, Princess Iselle, and through her is thrown back into court intrigues. The setting feels like Renaissance Spain, and in fact I think I recall reading somewhere Bujold modeled Iselle on the story of Queen Isabella of Spain--it certainly has a subtly different flavor than the plethora of fantasies that feel like a pseudo-medieval Britain. Bujold creates an interesting blend of Pagan and Christian mythologies for her religious system in this novel--complete with a curse on Cazaril. I loved these characters and this world. I don't know what it is exactly at times what lifts a book from just a good read to one where at the end the characters feel like friends and the world one you want to enter again and again--but the book has it in spades. I loved the sequel to this book Paladin of Souls just as much--both books won Hugos.more
As a somewhat older man I'm sure I should not approve of Bujold's predeliction for teenage girls falling for older men ( albeit, very noble and worthwhile men ). I really enjoy her books. The Vor series explore prejudices about stature, deformity and ethnicity. The Knife series is about intolerance and suspicion. This, I've just started and looks to be exploring somewhat different things. Whatever she tackles, the stories have enough love interest, intrigue and complexity to keep me involved.more
There's nothing really wrong with this book but I couldn't shake the feeling that it's little more than a B-grade "Song of Ice and Fire". As with GRRM's series the focus is mostly on court politics rather than the significant, but small, fantasy elements. Unfortunately, Martin does this sort of thing better and his characters are larger than life. The cast of TCoC are decent but they need a little more life injected into them.So, a perfectly okay fantasy novel but nothing above the average.more
Superb, entertaining traditional low fantasy of the highest quality. There's a complex set of hierarchies in feudal kingdoms, and I never really got my head around which level was where, and which were royalty or not. But our hero is 'lord' Caz, returning to his hometown a beaten and changed man after a decade or so of hard service in various superior lords' winning and losing armies. All he wants now is a little peace and quiet, his highest hopes to regain a page's place, in his desperate moments a scullions position would be fine. A chance sidetrack raises his hopes and, fortunately for him, and our tale, the former Lady of the house is still in charge. She recognises him and puts him in position as secretary tutor to the King's youngest niece who is residing there. The niece also has her older beautiful friend as chaperone. Caz has just about go t to know them (and begun to instruct them ) when they are all summoned to the capital. Caz knows the easy carefree life he's recently enjoyed is unlikely to continue.Everything proceeds very much as you might expect it to. There's an evil chamberlain, a beautiful foreign prince etc ad nausem. Except that it isn't nauseous at all. It's really very well written, light and gently humorous with dignity and suffering as appropriate. The precise details of the twists and turns between the predictable main plots are inventive. The characters sparkle, Caz gets some great 1 liners. There are active interventionist gods, and a clever theology to support them. It's a neat idea - 4 main gods, Father/Winter, Daughter/Spring, Mother/Summer, Son/Autumn and then a fifth the Bastard god, of misfits, unexpected events, unseasonal and extreme changes etc. But there's none of the competing schools of 'dark priests' as an enemy that such theologies often inspire. The divines of all the gods are there solely as shepherds.Something about it reminds me very much of a Victorian style epic – but I think that’s just the classic plot, for the writing is modern, and easy to read. Another bonus point is scored for the careful way in which all the details are tidied up – something far too many authors skate over. My only minor gripe is that the bad guys are a bit stilted and obvious – but then there is the curse driving their actions. There are no deep moral quandaries, and only the briefest thoughts over more philosophical aspects raised – but it is perhaps all the more enjoyable for that.The only thing this book is missing is dragons. Next time you want a light fantasy read this book. It is that good....................................................................................If you'd like to discuss or comment on this review there is a thread for it in Review Discussionsmore
No I'm typically into Science Fiction rather than Fantasy, but have read quite a bit in this genre as well. I thought the world created by Bujold to be well thought out and very enticing. The storyline more than held my interest - at points I couldn't put the book down. Bujold really hits it out of the park with the second book [Paladin of Souls] however. It's funny how each book in this series is really only related by the fantasy-world in which they are written - there's only a passing connection between the characters in this book and the next, so each may be read and appreciated as a stand-alone.more
The characters, especially the main character, really make this book. Cazariel is an intriguing mix of broken and yet still whole. He's someone you can admire, sympathize with, and yet be deliciously exasperated by.more
Pros: Sympathetic major characters, well-wrought world, and elegant prose.Cons: The pace is turgid, and the 'magic' is more divine than arcane with random blessings, miracles, and curses thrown in occasionally.Summary: Decent, if slightly bland, fantasy fare.more
I acquired this last week as part of my book-buying excursion, and then I decided to reread it, since it's a new addition to my library that I had read only once before, last year, as part of my Hugo-winner quest. Lois McMaster Bujold has won four Hugos for best novel, three for books in her Miles Vorkosigan science fiction stories, one for Paladin of Souls, the follow-up to The Curse of Chalion. Since she had won so many awards for noncontiguous storylines, I decided to just read all of it in order, digesting the Hugo winners along the way. I generally liked the stories and characters, and I certainly appreciated what she was trying to do with the science fiction. She's exploring an extremely patriarchal (sexist!), militaristic (ableist!) society from the perspectives of an extremely capable, strong female outsider (Cordelia, the mother of Miles) and a physically disabled young man (Miles Vorkosigan) while subverting the hero tropes of traditional space operas. She certainly has a way with dialogue, some fascinating ideas that she explores, and a great sense of the comic. But the books that won Hugos were by no means my favorites: Barrayar, The Vor Game, and Mirror Dance. Well, okay, maybe Barrayar. But the dinner scene in A Civil Campaign has to rank as one of the most memorable in my experience.But on to the fantasy series. Once again, while I liked Paladin of Souls okay, I preferred The Curse of Chalion. The protagonist, Lupe dy Cazaril, or Caz, is limping home a broken man. Well, he doesn't really have a home anymore, so he's hoping to find refuge in the home of the patron of his youth. He used to be a lord and knight but most recently was a slave. The widow of his former patron takes him in, sees his potential, and appoints him to tutor her granddaughter, a member of the royal family. Soon enough he is caught up in larger events involving his old enemies, court intrigues, and even the gods. Once again, good characters, interesting ideas, lots of action in the plot, nice dialogue. The things that make this book stand out: the limits of human endurance and discovering that they are much further than dreamed possible, the wisdom and perspective that comes with age and a life rich in experience, growing into leadership and understanding the dynamics of power, the strength of personal integrity to survive hardship and find the right path, the relationship between the divine/spiritual and the material planes and differences in theology and how they connect to cultural differences. The downsides: everyone's white, so no real racial diversity though some cultural diversity; most of the key players including the protagonist are men. The upsides: every woman character is strong and unique, even the ones that appear weak at first; some of the characters are gay--it is in fact a point of cultural/theological difference and a key plot element. And it is a very realistic portrayal of the emotional and physical damages that accumulate in war and servitude. The hero suffers but still succeeds in the end.more
Honestly, this book was really slow going at first. I think it's about a third of the way through the book that things actually start to happen. That doesn't matter, though, because the main character is empathetic, charming, and behaves like an actual person. He doesn't do things because it's heroic, he does them because they're the things he thinks he needs to do. It's a fine distinction.Once the book gets going, you'll probably have difficulty putting it down. One of the best fantasy novels I've read.more
The best of Bujold's outstanding body of work. Cazaril is "Miles grown up"; Chalion is a realistically detailed country reminiscent of medieval Spain; the religious context is intriguing, and the concept that Caz "volunteered for his assignment" is sound.more
This book is part of my effort to read all joint Hugo/Nebula Award winners. While this particular novel did not win the awards, it’s sequel, “Palladin of Souls” did. I thought it best to read part one before taking on part two. That having been said, I’m not sure I’ll proceed to “Palladin”. This genre, medieval fantasy, is not my favorite. While I thoroughly enjoyed J. R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (at least the first three installments), I found this to be far less effective. The setting of “Curse” is the Spanish medieval kingdom of Chalion. Many of the characters, titles and place names are heavily influenced by the supposed Spanish setting, which I found only slightly confusing. More troublesome is the complete absence of any kind of map. Whenever an author creates a world and frequently refers to geographic settings and various competing principalities and kingdoms, how can you fail to include a map?Again, making allowances for my general aversion to fantasy, this book was preferable to other works of fantasy which include magicians, elves, dwarves and dragons, in a cheap ripoff of Middle Earth. There is heavy emphasis on religion and spirituality, and a backdrop of magic that doesn’t consume the story until a sequence near the end that just gets silly. All in all, probably a winner for medieval fantasy wonks, though as stated, I’ve read better in the genre. I suspect I’ll proceed to “Palladin”, but more so from an obsessive compulsive desire to cross it off the Hugo/Nebula list than for any great need to see this story through.more
Just finished listening to the audio book version - it was brilliant. Its great to have a fantasy story that has little or no comparisons to Lord of the Rings. The characters were well developed and kept developing throughout the story. The story itself was simple, but had complexities built-in and the world was explained very well. Lots of unexpected twists and turns. I've found a new fantasy author who also does Sci-fi - so I'm doubly blessed.more
This book has a lot of important characters, so it kept me on the fly most of the time, making me think... who is that.. flip back a few pages. the dy in front of every name is confusing. The plot was amazing though and enough to keep me interested and yearn for more. I like that the main character is not perfect, far from dastardly gorgeous and aging. It was a nice point of view and there was so much going on that I had to keep reading.more
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Reviews

absolutely love this book!more
Excellent book. Liked it so much that I reread it right after I finished it!more
Bujold's gift is to write internally consistent fantasy with well-developed characters.The religion of Chalion makes sense. The rules are established and never broken. It's possible to make intelligent plot predictions (without the story being given away) because the story gives you information (always worked into the plot and never info-dumped) as to what the rules are.If I could write this well, I'd be a very happy woman!more
A nice way to start off the new year--the first book I finished in 2008 turns out to be, I think, a perfect genre novel.

And it's not as easy to write one of those as you might think. You have to give your readers some of the conventions of the genre, because that's usually why they're reading it in the first place. You also have to make it seem fresh, not just a tired rehash of whatever came before.

This book has all the stuff you look for in a political-intrigue-type fantasy (princesses, dark magic, sinister courtiers, etc.) and takes it seriously unlike some of those lame Hey Look At Me Subverting The Conventions writers.

At the same time, it has characters that are more than just chess pieces (imagine, women that are strong but still believable within the society of the period!), and a plot that's kind of like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel--you just jump in and hold on and have faith that it's going to come out all right in the end.more
I believe I read a comment from the author somewhere that this book was her exploration of various issues of religion. That sounds hideously dull to me, but it's actually a pretty fantastic story. Even the sort of throwaway answer to the perennial "why me?" whine is brilliant - basically, "Why do you think we just picked you? You're just the only one who managed to get this far." There was maybe one too many foreseeable coincidence, but it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the story. I'd definitely recommend this to fans of traditional fantasy.more
This is a lovely and engrossing fantasy novel.There are many things to like about The Curse of Chalion, but it is the characters that stand out for me, particularly Cazaril, the unconventional protagonist. At the start of the book, he has just returned from serving time on a slave galley, where he was sold after his name did not show up on the list of men to be ransomed after a siege. Though he is only thirty-five, he feels much older. He is tired, physically and emotionally—certainly not the young farmboy type you encounter in most fantasies and space operas.I also loved the stern, no-nonsense, Provincara, the feisty royesse (or princess) Iselle, her sensible handmaiden Betriz, Caz’s earnest and nosy friend Palli, and the mysterious head groom of the royal bestiary, Umegat.You know a book must be good when it makes you grin from ear to ear. That happened several times with to while reading The Curse of Chalion—once when Cazaril’s innocence is proven by an unusual sort of test, once when an impetuous Iselle confronts her half-brother Orrico and attempts to arrange her own marriage, and once when a figure from Cazaril’s past reappears in a very different guise to aid his plans. I’d like to say more about that last twist, but I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say that it’s amazing. I’m smiling again just from thinking about it.It’s not often that a book leaves me wondering about the author’s personal life, but reading The Curse of Chalion certainly made me want to learn more about Lois McMaster Bujold, specifically the nature of her religious views. The Quintarian pantheon is fascinating, seemingly based on both the seasons of the year and the family unit. It includes five figures: the Father of Winter, the Mother of Summer, the Son of Autumn, the Daughter of Spring, and the Bastard. The Bastard is not included in the pantheons of some surrounding countries, being a Satanic/Plutonic figure in charge of demons and hell, but the Quintarians see him as providing balance, a very Eastern idea. At the same time, much of the theology regarding the interactions between humans and the divine smacks of Christianity, with the Quintarian view of human freedom having a decidedly Armenian slant. (I’ve read that in some of Bujold’s sci-fi, the characters adopt quasi-Calvinist views. At the very least, this author is very familiar with varying strains of Christian thought.)My only complaint is not so much with the book itself as with the way I went about reading it. I did all right for the most part, but I was determined to finish by a certain time and so I read the last hundred and fifty pages or so while in a state of near exhaustion. As a result, the climax and denouement do not shine quite as brightly in my memory as the rest of the book. I’ll have to reread at some point. But I look forward to it, and to reading some of Bujold’s other tales. Recommended.more
Fantasy with a touch of Tolkien. The way in which our hero doesn't really want to be a hero but does what he has to do, reminded me of good old Frodo. Also, the fact that succeeding in completing his mission means going into the darkest of fates makes one think of walking into Mordor.I really enjoyed the development of the characters and the way in which little by little one starts to care about what's going to happen to them.more
Cazaril, a former soldier, returns from foreign imprisonment looking for peace, but the gods have other plans.I loved the medieval Spanish influenced background, which felt new, fresh, a wonderful new world to explore. There was plenty of action (wild horse rides, battles, miracles), court intrigue, and a touch of romance. And plenty of interesting intrigue to go around. The central mystery of the story draws you in and won't let you put the book down.The main character, Cazaril, is a witty and fully fleshed person. But heck with Lois, even the villains are fully developed. I love clever heroes. Characters who are more than thews and a shiny sword.If you like good fantasy. Fully developed characters. Interesting worlds. Good writing and you don't mind missing some sleep, read the book.more
This is a story of sacrifice, in the sense of Making Sacred. It's a story about god-given riddles. It's a world without magic, but with demons and gods who cannot truly act unless invited. (And who manage to be meddlesome from time to time even so.) It is rich, layered, and really awesome. (I like the sequel, Paladin of Souls, a bit better -- but Paladin has spoilers for this one, and this one sets things up so nicely. You should probably read Chalion first.) Get the sample from the ebook version. Read the sample. Get sucked in. (Unless you find it on sale, in which case, BUY IT FAST! Otherwise, you may well be kicking yourself later when it's no longer on sale.)more
I had a hard time getting into this book. It took me a while to read the first quarter of the book. However, once it started moving, I was completely absorbed. I felt like you really got to know each of the characters well. I ended up loving the book, and I'm very glad I finally sat own and made myself finish it. This was my first time reading Bujold and it definitely won't be my last. Cazaril was not your typical hero, but it made him all the more charming. I also really like Royesse Iselle and her best friend Lady Betriz. I definitely plan to read the rest of this series.more
I really enjoyed "The Curse of Chalion." It combines themes of religious mysticism, political machination, high fantasy, and redemption. Cazaril is extremely likable and I became very attached to him and his unintentional quest. Bujold was thorough in mapping out the details of the culture's religion, and all in all the intricacies of the plot were creative and cleverly designed. I'll probably read this book again some day.more
Good tight writing and then the occasional transcendant passage about personal qualities or theology. Wow!more
A couple of years ago I read Cordelia's Honor by Bujold, and although I had no trouble finishing it I was not terribly impressed either with the story or the caliber of the writing. I'm assuming that this series was written later because the first book in the series was very enjoyable with interesting characters and a compelling story well executed. I especially enjoyed the humor injected by the sardonic thoughts of the hero as the story progresses. I am anxiously awaiting starting the second installment and hope it lives up to the first one.more
There are mere fantasy novels, and then there are works of art. This is both. I had never read Bujold's work before, though I've heard a lot about her. This book has made me a convert to her writing.The protagonist of the story is Cazaril, a man broken and battered by life's cruelty. A spiteful lord arranged for him to be sold into slavery, and by whim Cazaril survived. He returns to the land of his youth, looking far older than his age and scarred mentally and physically. This is where the book begins. He becomes a secretary and tutor to the beautiful, headstrong sister of the heir to the throne of Cardegoss. Caz's fondness for his young charges grows, but their connections bring about the thing he dreads most of all: a return to the royal court, and a confrontation with the enemies who doomed him to slavery. When dark magic brings about unusual results, Caz finds out the royal family carries a dreadful curse... and his student, the Royesse, is blighted as well.The story is deep in political intrigue and also in theology. The land of Cardegoss holds an interesting array of gods who are very involved in the lives of their followers--including Cazaril. The writing is eloquent and the story manages to be gripping, even when nothing seems to be happening. The tension is there. The plot fits together better than any puzzle I have ever owned, and the characters...! I loved Cazaril. Even at the beginning, completely broken and mere steps from death, he carries a quiet nobility. The Royesse Iselle and her lady-in-waiting are vivid, brilliant women who don't let society's gender constraints form them to domesticity. The bad guys are truly bad, and yet utterly believable. This book is everything a good fantasy novel should be, and I hated to see it end. This will be one of my favorite books of the year, no question.more
James Lloyd's excellent narration contributed to my thorough enjoyment of the novel.more
'The Curse of Chalion' concerns a minor noble, Castillar Cazaril, who returns home after being rescued from a slave ship, and hopes to find an insignificant position within a castle where he served as a young page. He ends up (slight spoiler!) at the capital, in the king's palace itself, and has to find his way through the maze of political intrigue there.You're thrown in at the deep end, at the beginning, as the first chapter or so introduces us to Cazaril and slowly reveals facts about our hero which the main character, naturally, knows all along. And you have to work through a welter of Spanish sounding ranks, such as royas (kings), royinas (queens), royesses (princesses) and so on. It would also help to know that the five gods of their theology have a real presence, and are not just an abstract.Once I got those sorted out, though, I was captured by the book and couldn't wait to find out what happened next. There was always a sense of danger (political, physical, mental and spiritual) threatening the central characters, and I had to keep reading, to see who survived. Though the hero is a man, there are several strong female leads, as well, and the hero himself is somewhat flawed, being a bit older, at 36, and having suffered the ravages of war (i.e. not tall, dark and handsome). I liked the way all the threads, even seemingly insignificant ones, came together quite tidily, and I felt the theological premise was quite an unusual twist.I recommend it as a page turner.more
This was my first book by Bujold and after reading it I had to hunt up everything else she wrote I could find in stores or failing that borrow them from the library. This book earned a spot in my precious limited shelf space and I've read and enjoyed it more than once (and just writing this review makes me want to pick it up again). Bujold's an exceptional writer and I was pulled in at once; there was never a moment I wanted to put the book down. The protagonist, Cazaril, immediately gained my sympathies--a broken man, he goes to a noblewoman asking for any place in her household and winds up tutor to her granddaughter, Princess Iselle, and through her is thrown back into court intrigues. The setting feels like Renaissance Spain, and in fact I think I recall reading somewhere Bujold modeled Iselle on the story of Queen Isabella of Spain--it certainly has a subtly different flavor than the plethora of fantasies that feel like a pseudo-medieval Britain. Bujold creates an interesting blend of Pagan and Christian mythologies for her religious system in this novel--complete with a curse on Cazaril. I loved these characters and this world. I don't know what it is exactly at times what lifts a book from just a good read to one where at the end the characters feel like friends and the world one you want to enter again and again--but the book has it in spades. I loved the sequel to this book Paladin of Souls just as much--both books won Hugos.more
As a somewhat older man I'm sure I should not approve of Bujold's predeliction for teenage girls falling for older men ( albeit, very noble and worthwhile men ). I really enjoy her books. The Vor series explore prejudices about stature, deformity and ethnicity. The Knife series is about intolerance and suspicion. This, I've just started and looks to be exploring somewhat different things. Whatever she tackles, the stories have enough love interest, intrigue and complexity to keep me involved.more
There's nothing really wrong with this book but I couldn't shake the feeling that it's little more than a B-grade "Song of Ice and Fire". As with GRRM's series the focus is mostly on court politics rather than the significant, but small, fantasy elements. Unfortunately, Martin does this sort of thing better and his characters are larger than life. The cast of TCoC are decent but they need a little more life injected into them.So, a perfectly okay fantasy novel but nothing above the average.more
Superb, entertaining traditional low fantasy of the highest quality. There's a complex set of hierarchies in feudal kingdoms, and I never really got my head around which level was where, and which were royalty or not. But our hero is 'lord' Caz, returning to his hometown a beaten and changed man after a decade or so of hard service in various superior lords' winning and losing armies. All he wants now is a little peace and quiet, his highest hopes to regain a page's place, in his desperate moments a scullions position would be fine. A chance sidetrack raises his hopes and, fortunately for him, and our tale, the former Lady of the house is still in charge. She recognises him and puts him in position as secretary tutor to the King's youngest niece who is residing there. The niece also has her older beautiful friend as chaperone. Caz has just about go t to know them (and begun to instruct them ) when they are all summoned to the capital. Caz knows the easy carefree life he's recently enjoyed is unlikely to continue.Everything proceeds very much as you might expect it to. There's an evil chamberlain, a beautiful foreign prince etc ad nausem. Except that it isn't nauseous at all. It's really very well written, light and gently humorous with dignity and suffering as appropriate. The precise details of the twists and turns between the predictable main plots are inventive. The characters sparkle, Caz gets some great 1 liners. There are active interventionist gods, and a clever theology to support them. It's a neat idea - 4 main gods, Father/Winter, Daughter/Spring, Mother/Summer, Son/Autumn and then a fifth the Bastard god, of misfits, unexpected events, unseasonal and extreme changes etc. But there's none of the competing schools of 'dark priests' as an enemy that such theologies often inspire. The divines of all the gods are there solely as shepherds.Something about it reminds me very much of a Victorian style epic – but I think that’s just the classic plot, for the writing is modern, and easy to read. Another bonus point is scored for the careful way in which all the details are tidied up – something far too many authors skate over. My only minor gripe is that the bad guys are a bit stilted and obvious – but then there is the curse driving their actions. There are no deep moral quandaries, and only the briefest thoughts over more philosophical aspects raised – but it is perhaps all the more enjoyable for that.The only thing this book is missing is dragons. Next time you want a light fantasy read this book. It is that good....................................................................................If you'd like to discuss or comment on this review there is a thread for it in Review Discussionsmore
No I'm typically into Science Fiction rather than Fantasy, but have read quite a bit in this genre as well. I thought the world created by Bujold to be well thought out and very enticing. The storyline more than held my interest - at points I couldn't put the book down. Bujold really hits it out of the park with the second book [Paladin of Souls] however. It's funny how each book in this series is really only related by the fantasy-world in which they are written - there's only a passing connection between the characters in this book and the next, so each may be read and appreciated as a stand-alone.more
The characters, especially the main character, really make this book. Cazariel is an intriguing mix of broken and yet still whole. He's someone you can admire, sympathize with, and yet be deliciously exasperated by.more
Pros: Sympathetic major characters, well-wrought world, and elegant prose.Cons: The pace is turgid, and the 'magic' is more divine than arcane with random blessings, miracles, and curses thrown in occasionally.Summary: Decent, if slightly bland, fantasy fare.more
I acquired this last week as part of my book-buying excursion, and then I decided to reread it, since it's a new addition to my library that I had read only once before, last year, as part of my Hugo-winner quest. Lois McMaster Bujold has won four Hugos for best novel, three for books in her Miles Vorkosigan science fiction stories, one for Paladin of Souls, the follow-up to The Curse of Chalion. Since she had won so many awards for noncontiguous storylines, I decided to just read all of it in order, digesting the Hugo winners along the way. I generally liked the stories and characters, and I certainly appreciated what she was trying to do with the science fiction. She's exploring an extremely patriarchal (sexist!), militaristic (ableist!) society from the perspectives of an extremely capable, strong female outsider (Cordelia, the mother of Miles) and a physically disabled young man (Miles Vorkosigan) while subverting the hero tropes of traditional space operas. She certainly has a way with dialogue, some fascinating ideas that she explores, and a great sense of the comic. But the books that won Hugos were by no means my favorites: Barrayar, The Vor Game, and Mirror Dance. Well, okay, maybe Barrayar. But the dinner scene in A Civil Campaign has to rank as one of the most memorable in my experience.But on to the fantasy series. Once again, while I liked Paladin of Souls okay, I preferred The Curse of Chalion. The protagonist, Lupe dy Cazaril, or Caz, is limping home a broken man. Well, he doesn't really have a home anymore, so he's hoping to find refuge in the home of the patron of his youth. He used to be a lord and knight but most recently was a slave. The widow of his former patron takes him in, sees his potential, and appoints him to tutor her granddaughter, a member of the royal family. Soon enough he is caught up in larger events involving his old enemies, court intrigues, and even the gods. Once again, good characters, interesting ideas, lots of action in the plot, nice dialogue. The things that make this book stand out: the limits of human endurance and discovering that they are much further than dreamed possible, the wisdom and perspective that comes with age and a life rich in experience, growing into leadership and understanding the dynamics of power, the strength of personal integrity to survive hardship and find the right path, the relationship between the divine/spiritual and the material planes and differences in theology and how they connect to cultural differences. The downsides: everyone's white, so no real racial diversity though some cultural diversity; most of the key players including the protagonist are men. The upsides: every woman character is strong and unique, even the ones that appear weak at first; some of the characters are gay--it is in fact a point of cultural/theological difference and a key plot element. And it is a very realistic portrayal of the emotional and physical damages that accumulate in war and servitude. The hero suffers but still succeeds in the end.more
Honestly, this book was really slow going at first. I think it's about a third of the way through the book that things actually start to happen. That doesn't matter, though, because the main character is empathetic, charming, and behaves like an actual person. He doesn't do things because it's heroic, he does them because they're the things he thinks he needs to do. It's a fine distinction.Once the book gets going, you'll probably have difficulty putting it down. One of the best fantasy novels I've read.more
The best of Bujold's outstanding body of work. Cazaril is "Miles grown up"; Chalion is a realistically detailed country reminiscent of medieval Spain; the religious context is intriguing, and the concept that Caz "volunteered for his assignment" is sound.more
This book is part of my effort to read all joint Hugo/Nebula Award winners. While this particular novel did not win the awards, it’s sequel, “Palladin of Souls” did. I thought it best to read part one before taking on part two. That having been said, I’m not sure I’ll proceed to “Palladin”. This genre, medieval fantasy, is not my favorite. While I thoroughly enjoyed J. R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (at least the first three installments), I found this to be far less effective. The setting of “Curse” is the Spanish medieval kingdom of Chalion. Many of the characters, titles and place names are heavily influenced by the supposed Spanish setting, which I found only slightly confusing. More troublesome is the complete absence of any kind of map. Whenever an author creates a world and frequently refers to geographic settings and various competing principalities and kingdoms, how can you fail to include a map?Again, making allowances for my general aversion to fantasy, this book was preferable to other works of fantasy which include magicians, elves, dwarves and dragons, in a cheap ripoff of Middle Earth. There is heavy emphasis on religion and spirituality, and a backdrop of magic that doesn’t consume the story until a sequence near the end that just gets silly. All in all, probably a winner for medieval fantasy wonks, though as stated, I’ve read better in the genre. I suspect I’ll proceed to “Palladin”, but more so from an obsessive compulsive desire to cross it off the Hugo/Nebula list than for any great need to see this story through.more
Just finished listening to the audio book version - it was brilliant. Its great to have a fantasy story that has little or no comparisons to Lord of the Rings. The characters were well developed and kept developing throughout the story. The story itself was simple, but had complexities built-in and the world was explained very well. Lots of unexpected twists and turns. I've found a new fantasy author who also does Sci-fi - so I'm doubly blessed.more
This book has a lot of important characters, so it kept me on the fly most of the time, making me think... who is that.. flip back a few pages. the dy in front of every name is confusing. The plot was amazing though and enough to keep me interested and yearn for more. I like that the main character is not perfect, far from dastardly gorgeous and aging. It was a nice point of view and there was so much going on that I had to keep reading.more
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