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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 Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061793042
List price: $5.99
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absolutely love this book!read more
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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.read more
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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.read more
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Her writing style does not seem fit fantasy too well, but the tale itself is interesting. The setting feels of medieval Spain (c. 12th and 13th centuries). There is action, theology, evil counsellors, duty and love in this quest to rid a royal family of a crippling curse, and to unite two kingdoms.read more
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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.read more
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I don't crush on Bujold's works quite as much as seems normal, but I do find them solidly enjoyable. My take on this new series is that I miss the breezy pace of the Miles books, but I think the characters in this are deeper and better. Call it a wash.read more
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Excellent start of a new series by Bujold. She is a masterful writer who creates complex worlds with living characters in them. She is particularly good with her female protagonists in this series.I've just reread this book and think this review is far to tepid. This is an exploration of prayer and the gods, and fate and madness and choice and curses. Really, it's one of the best fantasy books I've ever read and I love Caz as a character. He's just wonderful. I often read the first page of new fantasies and sigh, because I can already tell that they are not as good as the Curse of Chalion. It's the pinacle that all others must try to reach...read more
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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.read more
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Interesting book. One thing I noticed several times in it - the hero has some of Miles' gestures - that is, he's hurt and in chronic pain, and responds as Miles does (one I remember seeing several times was 'jerking his chin up' to dismiss how he's feeling and go on to what needs to be done, for instance). Not strong, and not in any way an interruption to the story - the gestures and attitude fit him as well as Miles - but the familiar words made me look at him to see if he were just Miles in a different coat. Nope. Very different guy, though I think he and Miles would get along just fine.read more
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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.read more
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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!read more
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Note: "The Curse of Chalion" is the first of three books set in the same world, an award-winning sequel and a prequel, but I've read none of the others. So, Chalion can be read as a standalone; it's that self-contained.* "Five Gods, it really is you. My lord dy Cazaril. I bid you welcome to my house."Cazaril, protagonist and sole (3rd person) narrator of the book, has nowhere to go when he returns to the royacy of Chalion. Once a page, a courtier, a captain, castle warder and courier, the intrigues of a fellow noble gave him yet another role to play: For the past one and a half years, he has been a galley slave on an enemy country's ship and escaped only when he was washed ashore at the kingdom's coast.He turns to the Provincara, in whose household he once worked as a page, for help, wanting nothing but a place to stay, nothing but a chance to live, out of sight and forgotten by the rest of the world, but the lady has other plans.She wants him to take up yet another post, to be the tutor of her granddaughter, the princess Iselle (and to the princess's maid, Betriz), which should be an easy enough job for a man who can't get his broken body to do much else, but while Cazaril is grateful that she doesn't send him away, he also fears his new assignment: Being that close to the princess means that he will one day have to return to the royal court at Cardegoss, the very place where certain scheming nobles would be very interested in hearing that he is still alive...* "What's the matter with him?" - "A madman, I suppose." - "Well, he'll fit right in here, then, won't he..."Caz himself is easily the most memorable character of the book. He has one of the most distinctive narrative voices I've come across in a long time and you wouldn't mistake him for anyone else... it probably says quite a lot when he can, toward the end of the story, cheerfully inform us that the lady's nose is much more astonishing than a pebble and have it make perfect sense. I reread bits of the first two or three chapters before writing this post and seeing him think, in the state of mind he is in then, hurts, which is the highest praise I can give: He is, as the blurb on the back of the book so aptly puts it, "a man broken in body and spirit" and it's reflected in his narration as well. (There is another dialogue between him and his friend Palli that sums it up very well: "We slaves--" - "Stop that!" - "Stop what?" - "Stop saying that. We slaves. You are a lord of Chalion!") The good news is, we can only go up from there.Cazaril's character development is excellently done and takes quite a few unexpected detours along the way; he ends up a character who's both likeable and intriguing and I have to give props to the author for writing him in a way that makes sure we feel for him, that makes us love and cry and hurt and celebrate with him - but never, not once, are we supposed to pity him. (Thank you.) Caz has his flaws and he has his strengths, and it's been a while since I've enjoyed a "reluctant hero" type so much. I love him dearly.This does not mean that you'll easily forget about the other characters: They play their roles well, develop personalities of their own and form a strong ensemble cast to carry the rest of the book: Whether it's Iselle and Betriz, who have their own ideas about where they want the plot to go, Caz' childhood friend Palliar, who greets him most enthusiastically and refuses to keep his nose out of other people's business, especially when the people in question start complaining, the brothers Jironal, two formidable villains with intricate plans and a debt they'd rather not pay, "Mad Lady Ista" who is, of course, not half as mad as people say she is, or Umegat, a servant in charge of the royal menagerie and so much more than he seems to be at first sight (hint: he glows. No, really.). Or any of the other people running around in hat book. Orico, Teidez, dy Ferrej, dy Sanda, Bergon. You'll know all these strange names by heart by the time you've reached the final page 502.* "Mercy, High Ones, not justice. Please, not justice. We would all be fools to pray for justice."But. The characters are only one of the reasons why I love this books so much. Another is the writing itself, which is very solid and full of wit. Yet another is the worldbuilding, which is presented with almost no infodumping at all, just by being present and influencing people's lives. The best example, and easily my favourite, is religion. At first glance, Chalion's pantheon is one we've seen a dozen times before in a dozen other Fantasy books. But the closer we look (and trust me, we get a very good look at it in the course of the story), the more fascinating it becomes.Sure, we start the circle of five Gods with the Daughter, the typical Maiden of Spring and the Mother, the equally typical Lady of Summer. We go on with the Son for Autumn and the Father for Winter and realise we have a happy little family and a complete cycle of seasons - and a God left, because I mentioned five of them. Number five, the Bastard, God of "all things out of season" could easily be their "bad guy," Chalion's equivalent of a devil or trickster god. Granted, he is a bit of a trickster, but he is also very much a member of the family, held in as high a regard as the other four.Without giving too much away, I can say that I love the way religion influences both the plot and people's lives, from ceremonies on holy days to their view on the world. (One particularly interesting example is the attitude towards homosexuality, but I'm walking right into spoiler territory and will shut up now.)* "Were you... were you a deserter?"Religion isn't the only detail that makes sure we always know that we're in Chalion, not in Generic fantasy World Number 274917498. I'll name just one more and leave it to you to discover the rest when if you pick up the book yourself: When Caz, toward the beginning of the story, visits a bathhouse and is happily soaking in the water, the bath boy who brings wood for the fire to keep the water hot asks him if he's a deserter, because he's seen the scars on the man's back and knows that some of the only people who are punished by Chalion's law by flogging are deserters. Cazaril, who got his scars as a galley slave, doesn't have time to explain just that after he has told the boy that no, he's not a deserter, because the boy drops the bucket he was carrying and runs away as fast as he can. Caz remembers too late that the only other people punished like that are rapists... Needless to say, the boy's father and bathhouse owner throws him out faster than he can clear up the misunderstanding.(What do you mean, "flaws?" Ah yes, of course, if I have to... There are a few instances were either the limited narration presents an obstacle (because we would love to know what happens elsewhere) or where some things fall into place a tad too conveniently. The latter complaint, however, isn't really one, as you will see once you know the whole story...)Amazon is currently asking seven Euro for the book. To me, it's worth every cent twice over.read more
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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.read more
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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.read more
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James Lloyd's excellent narration contributed to my thorough enjoyment of the novel.read more
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This is one of my absolutely favorite books. I'm particularly fascinated by the well-thought-out religion (both versions - each of which considers the other heretical), given much more thought than you usually see in a fantasy book.Bujold's characters, as always, are real people you can imagine interacting with, rather than idealized types. All characters, sympathetic and non-, are given strengths and weaknesses, instead of being one-dimensional heroes and villans (well, maybe not Dondo).I also enjoy the unusual Shakespearean plot structure, with the pivotal event in the middle of the story, with all other events leading up to and then as a result of it.read more
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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.read more
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I love LMB's five-fold deities, and I really love her ideas on how the mundane world and gods might interact. Redemption of an aging complex character doesn't hurt a bit, either. Suitably not-Miles, for a breakaway from another beloved long-ongoing world/series.read more
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I re-read this in anticipation of reading the rest of the series, finally. When I read it the first time, I was disappointed because I had just finished reading McMaster's Vorkosigan books and was hoping that this would be in the same style. This time I tried to read it for itself and was much happier with it. There are still traces of McMaster's humor, a crippled hero, exploration of her favorite themes of loyalty and leadership, and twisty political intrigues, but the book is darker and touches on spiritual questions not really addressed in her previous books. I found her premise of how gods act in the world to be intriguing, though as an atheist, some of it seemed a bit apologetic in tone. Nevertheless, the plot is tight, the characters jump off the page, and the ending is satisfying. Cazaril, after being sold into slavery on a galley, returns to his old home and enters the service of a princess of a cursed family. Cazaril uncovers both political plots and hidden family truths to keep his "royesse" safe, and falls in quiet and hopeless love with her handmaiden. He discovers he is god-touched and tries to fulfill the will off the Daughter, whom he believes may be trying to lift the curse from Chalion through him, but finds that being the tool of the gods is no comfortable place. Through loyalty, love, and sacrifice, he succeeds.read more
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First in the Chalion trilogy, Bujold is a great story-teller. Wonderful characters and a richly-detailed fantasy world, without actually using much exposition. Very feudal-like in the rendering of politics and the importance of religion in daily life. Strong female characters without resorting to creating Xena-like ones. And a nice romance to boot!read more
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Lois McMaster Bujold is a master of character development. _The Curse of Chalion_ is fairly standard in plot. Political infighting and intrigue. But, Bujold really pulls us into caring about the characters. Other less skilled authors would make our protagonist into an anti-hero, but Bujold conveys the pain he feels and baggage he carries with sympathy and understanding. His eventual triumph is so much sweeter. A fine story.read more
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Curse of Chalion is my first experience with Bujold and I have since picked up nearly everything she has done before and after. Bother Curse of Chalion and its 'sequel' Paladin of Souls stand out to me as her best work. Bujold creates a living breathing fantasy world; beautiful and tinged with reality it draws you in. The world, interesting as it is, is populated by well crafted characters who, despite their fantastic setting, are both empathetic and believable. Bujold really shines in her ability to create an emotional resonance between her characters and her reader, the plight of Cazaril and the underpinning themes of faith and duty are both relevant in the modern world and make for an engaging read.read more
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Plot: The story takes its time to get going, with the first 150 pages serving essentially as set-up. Once the plot shows up, things move at a fairly fast pace - events in this book are spun out into trilogies by other authors. Fairly straightforward save-the-country-and-girl plot with nice twists, good ties to the past and a satisfying end. The story is contained in itself and essentially a stand-alone.Characters: The central character is not young, vigurous and eager for once, which is always a pleasant change in fantasy. It's a bit hard to really care for him, but he's likable. Motives aren't quite clear at times in the cases of most characters, an unfortunate side effect of the fast-paced plot. Generally good characterization. Style: Pleasant to read, with good dialogues and just enough description. In general the storytelling is very dense, which makes scenes quite short on occasion. Interesting worldbuilding, with no dazzling magic and fairly uncomplicated religious beliefs - it feels a lot more practical than the usual fare. Plus: Worldbuilding. Very readable prose. Good plot that resolves in the end. Women who have brains and know how to use them. Minus: The central character is a touch too self-conscious, and that he's physically unwell for practically the entire book is something that eventually is hard to care about. Summary: Excellent feudal fantasy read, low on the real magic but with a good pinch of divine meddling.read more
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As usual with Bujold's writing, I found this to be a very satisfying read. Cazaril is a compelling protagonist, a man who is only an average swordsman and horseman, a thirty-five year old grizzled veteran of war and slavery, who suffers disfiguring, but hidden, scars. He is intelligent, and ultimately driven by a deep sense of right and wrong. I find it interesting that, in a speculative fiction world where most male heroes are young, big, strong, handsome, healthy, and talented, the creator of Miles Vorgosigan would give us Cazaril as well. We need more protagonists like this! I always find Bujold to be a great storyteller, taking us through plot turns that are at times predictable and at others surprising. The plot turn which resolved the seemingly unsolvable "die three deaths" prophecy was clever and unexpected. The understated romance between Cazaril and Betriz develops slowly and effectively. My biggest complaint about the book is that, excepting the protagonist, the other characters (and especially the villains) are fairly one-dimensional. I also found the role of the gods and how they interacted with humanity to be somewhat unconvincing. And the denouement felt a bit clumsy, especially Cazaril's doubts about his place in the new political regime of Chalion. Having said all that, this is one of those rare books that, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a satisfying traditional fantasy read.read more
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'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.read more
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Started a bit slow but good, realistic fantasy. Don't like young girls as plot element though.read more
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First book of the new series and the best. Cazaril is deeper, more complex and more convincing than any other character in this world ... so far!read more
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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.read more
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An intreging story set in a complex world.: In The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold considers a variety of relisous questions regarding the nature of sainthood, of demons, and of God. Her characters are personable and interesting and the delemas they face are compelling.read more
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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 Discussionsread more
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absolutely love this book!
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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.
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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.
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Her writing style does not seem fit fantasy too well, but the tale itself is interesting. The setting feels of medieval Spain (c. 12th and 13th centuries). There is action, theology, evil counsellors, duty and love in this quest to rid a royal family of a crippling curse, and to unite two kingdoms.
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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.
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I don't crush on Bujold's works quite as much as seems normal, but I do find them solidly enjoyable. My take on this new series is that I miss the breezy pace of the Miles books, but I think the characters in this are deeper and better. Call it a wash.
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Excellent start of a new series by Bujold. She is a masterful writer who creates complex worlds with living characters in them. She is particularly good with her female protagonists in this series.I've just reread this book and think this review is far to tepid. This is an exploration of prayer and the gods, and fate and madness and choice and curses. Really, it's one of the best fantasy books I've ever read and I love Caz as a character. He's just wonderful. I often read the first page of new fantasies and sigh, because I can already tell that they are not as good as the Curse of Chalion. It's the pinacle that all others must try to reach...
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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.
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Interesting book. One thing I noticed several times in it - the hero has some of Miles' gestures - that is, he's hurt and in chronic pain, and responds as Miles does (one I remember seeing several times was 'jerking his chin up' to dismiss how he's feeling and go on to what needs to be done, for instance). Not strong, and not in any way an interruption to the story - the gestures and attitude fit him as well as Miles - but the familiar words made me look at him to see if he were just Miles in a different coat. Nope. Very different guy, though I think he and Miles would get along just fine.
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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.
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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!
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Note: "The Curse of Chalion" is the first of three books set in the same world, an award-winning sequel and a prequel, but I've read none of the others. So, Chalion can be read as a standalone; it's that self-contained.* "Five Gods, it really is you. My lord dy Cazaril. I bid you welcome to my house."Cazaril, protagonist and sole (3rd person) narrator of the book, has nowhere to go when he returns to the royacy of Chalion. Once a page, a courtier, a captain, castle warder and courier, the intrigues of a fellow noble gave him yet another role to play: For the past one and a half years, he has been a galley slave on an enemy country's ship and escaped only when he was washed ashore at the kingdom's coast.He turns to the Provincara, in whose household he once worked as a page, for help, wanting nothing but a place to stay, nothing but a chance to live, out of sight and forgotten by the rest of the world, but the lady has other plans.She wants him to take up yet another post, to be the tutor of her granddaughter, the princess Iselle (and to the princess's maid, Betriz), which should be an easy enough job for a man who can't get his broken body to do much else, but while Cazaril is grateful that she doesn't send him away, he also fears his new assignment: Being that close to the princess means that he will one day have to return to the royal court at Cardegoss, the very place where certain scheming nobles would be very interested in hearing that he is still alive...* "What's the matter with him?" - "A madman, I suppose." - "Well, he'll fit right in here, then, won't he..."Caz himself is easily the most memorable character of the book. He has one of the most distinctive narrative voices I've come across in a long time and you wouldn't mistake him for anyone else... it probably says quite a lot when he can, toward the end of the story, cheerfully inform us that the lady's nose is much more astonishing than a pebble and have it make perfect sense. I reread bits of the first two or three chapters before writing this post and seeing him think, in the state of mind he is in then, hurts, which is the highest praise I can give: He is, as the blurb on the back of the book so aptly puts it, "a man broken in body and spirit" and it's reflected in his narration as well. (There is another dialogue between him and his friend Palli that sums it up very well: "We slaves--" - "Stop that!" - "Stop what?" - "Stop saying that. We slaves. You are a lord of Chalion!") The good news is, we can only go up from there.Cazaril's character development is excellently done and takes quite a few unexpected detours along the way; he ends up a character who's both likeable and intriguing and I have to give props to the author for writing him in a way that makes sure we feel for him, that makes us love and cry and hurt and celebrate with him - but never, not once, are we supposed to pity him. (Thank you.) Caz has his flaws and he has his strengths, and it's been a while since I've enjoyed a "reluctant hero" type so much. I love him dearly.This does not mean that you'll easily forget about the other characters: They play their roles well, develop personalities of their own and form a strong ensemble cast to carry the rest of the book: Whether it's Iselle and Betriz, who have their own ideas about where they want the plot to go, Caz' childhood friend Palliar, who greets him most enthusiastically and refuses to keep his nose out of other people's business, especially when the people in question start complaining, the brothers Jironal, two formidable villains with intricate plans and a debt they'd rather not pay, "Mad Lady Ista" who is, of course, not half as mad as people say she is, or Umegat, a servant in charge of the royal menagerie and so much more than he seems to be at first sight (hint: he glows. No, really.). Or any of the other people running around in hat book. Orico, Teidez, dy Ferrej, dy Sanda, Bergon. You'll know all these strange names by heart by the time you've reached the final page 502.* "Mercy, High Ones, not justice. Please, not justice. We would all be fools to pray for justice."But. The characters are only one of the reasons why I love this books so much. Another is the writing itself, which is very solid and full of wit. Yet another is the worldbuilding, which is presented with almost no infodumping at all, just by being present and influencing people's lives. The best example, and easily my favourite, is religion. At first glance, Chalion's pantheon is one we've seen a dozen times before in a dozen other Fantasy books. But the closer we look (and trust me, we get a very good look at it in the course of the story), the more fascinating it becomes.Sure, we start the circle of five Gods with the Daughter, the typical Maiden of Spring and the Mother, the equally typical Lady of Summer. We go on with the Son for Autumn and the Father for Winter and realise we have a happy little family and a complete cycle of seasons - and a God left, because I mentioned five of them. Number five, the Bastard, God of "all things out of season" could easily be their "bad guy," Chalion's equivalent of a devil or trickster god. Granted, he is a bit of a trickster, but he is also very much a member of the family, held in as high a regard as the other four.Without giving too much away, I can say that I love the way religion influences both the plot and people's lives, from ceremonies on holy days to their view on the world. (One particularly interesting example is the attitude towards homosexuality, but I'm walking right into spoiler territory and will shut up now.)* "Were you... were you a deserter?"Religion isn't the only detail that makes sure we always know that we're in Chalion, not in Generic fantasy World Number 274917498. I'll name just one more and leave it to you to discover the rest when if you pick up the book yourself: When Caz, toward the beginning of the story, visits a bathhouse and is happily soaking in the water, the bath boy who brings wood for the fire to keep the water hot asks him if he's a deserter, because he's seen the scars on the man's back and knows that some of the only people who are punished by Chalion's law by flogging are deserters. Cazaril, who got his scars as a galley slave, doesn't have time to explain just that after he has told the boy that no, he's not a deserter, because the boy drops the bucket he was carrying and runs away as fast as he can. Caz remembers too late that the only other people punished like that are rapists... Needless to say, the boy's father and bathhouse owner throws him out faster than he can clear up the misunderstanding.(What do you mean, "flaws?" Ah yes, of course, if I have to... There are a few instances were either the limited narration presents an obstacle (because we would love to know what happens elsewhere) or where some things fall into place a tad too conveniently. The latter complaint, however, isn't really one, as you will see once you know the whole story...)Amazon is currently asking seven Euro for the book. To me, it's worth every cent twice over.
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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.
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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.
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James Lloyd's excellent narration contributed to my thorough enjoyment of the novel.
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This is one of my absolutely favorite books. I'm particularly fascinated by the well-thought-out religion (both versions - each of which considers the other heretical), given much more thought than you usually see in a fantasy book.Bujold's characters, as always, are real people you can imagine interacting with, rather than idealized types. All characters, sympathetic and non-, are given strengths and weaknesses, instead of being one-dimensional heroes and villans (well, maybe not Dondo).I also enjoy the unusual Shakespearean plot structure, with the pivotal event in the middle of the story, with all other events leading up to and then as a result of it.
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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.
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I love LMB's five-fold deities, and I really love her ideas on how the mundane world and gods might interact. Redemption of an aging complex character doesn't hurt a bit, either. Suitably not-Miles, for a breakaway from another beloved long-ongoing world/series.
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I re-read this in anticipation of reading the rest of the series, finally. When I read it the first time, I was disappointed because I had just finished reading McMaster's Vorkosigan books and was hoping that this would be in the same style. This time I tried to read it for itself and was much happier with it. There are still traces of McMaster's humor, a crippled hero, exploration of her favorite themes of loyalty and leadership, and twisty political intrigues, but the book is darker and touches on spiritual questions not really addressed in her previous books. I found her premise of how gods act in the world to be intriguing, though as an atheist, some of it seemed a bit apologetic in tone. Nevertheless, the plot is tight, the characters jump off the page, and the ending is satisfying. Cazaril, after being sold into slavery on a galley, returns to his old home and enters the service of a princess of a cursed family. Cazaril uncovers both political plots and hidden family truths to keep his "royesse" safe, and falls in quiet and hopeless love with her handmaiden. He discovers he is god-touched and tries to fulfill the will off the Daughter, whom he believes may be trying to lift the curse from Chalion through him, but finds that being the tool of the gods is no comfortable place. Through loyalty, love, and sacrifice, he succeeds.
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First in the Chalion trilogy, Bujold is a great story-teller. Wonderful characters and a richly-detailed fantasy world, without actually using much exposition. Very feudal-like in the rendering of politics and the importance of religion in daily life. Strong female characters without resorting to creating Xena-like ones. And a nice romance to boot!
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Lois McMaster Bujold is a master of character development. _The Curse of Chalion_ is fairly standard in plot. Political infighting and intrigue. But, Bujold really pulls us into caring about the characters. Other less skilled authors would make our protagonist into an anti-hero, but Bujold conveys the pain he feels and baggage he carries with sympathy and understanding. His eventual triumph is so much sweeter. A fine story.
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Curse of Chalion is my first experience with Bujold and I have since picked up nearly everything she has done before and after. Bother Curse of Chalion and its 'sequel' Paladin of Souls stand out to me as her best work. Bujold creates a living breathing fantasy world; beautiful and tinged with reality it draws you in. The world, interesting as it is, is populated by well crafted characters who, despite their fantastic setting, are both empathetic and believable. Bujold really shines in her ability to create an emotional resonance between her characters and her reader, the plight of Cazaril and the underpinning themes of faith and duty are both relevant in the modern world and make for an engaging read.
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Plot: The story takes its time to get going, with the first 150 pages serving essentially as set-up. Once the plot shows up, things move at a fairly fast pace - events in this book are spun out into trilogies by other authors. Fairly straightforward save-the-country-and-girl plot with nice twists, good ties to the past and a satisfying end. The story is contained in itself and essentially a stand-alone.Characters: The central character is not young, vigurous and eager for once, which is always a pleasant change in fantasy. It's a bit hard to really care for him, but he's likable. Motives aren't quite clear at times in the cases of most characters, an unfortunate side effect of the fast-paced plot. Generally good characterization. Style: Pleasant to read, with good dialogues and just enough description. In general the storytelling is very dense, which makes scenes quite short on occasion. Interesting worldbuilding, with no dazzling magic and fairly uncomplicated religious beliefs - it feels a lot more practical than the usual fare. Plus: Worldbuilding. Very readable prose. Good plot that resolves in the end. Women who have brains and know how to use them. Minus: The central character is a touch too self-conscious, and that he's physically unwell for practically the entire book is something that eventually is hard to care about. Summary: Excellent feudal fantasy read, low on the real magic but with a good pinch of divine meddling.
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As usual with Bujold's writing, I found this to be a very satisfying read. Cazaril is a compelling protagonist, a man who is only an average swordsman and horseman, a thirty-five year old grizzled veteran of war and slavery, who suffers disfiguring, but hidden, scars. He is intelligent, and ultimately driven by a deep sense of right and wrong. I find it interesting that, in a speculative fiction world where most male heroes are young, big, strong, handsome, healthy, and talented, the creator of Miles Vorgosigan would give us Cazaril as well. We need more protagonists like this! I always find Bujold to be a great storyteller, taking us through plot turns that are at times predictable and at others surprising. The plot turn which resolved the seemingly unsolvable "die three deaths" prophecy was clever and unexpected. The understated romance between Cazaril and Betriz develops slowly and effectively. My biggest complaint about the book is that, excepting the protagonist, the other characters (and especially the villains) are fairly one-dimensional. I also found the role of the gods and how they interacted with humanity to be somewhat unconvincing. And the denouement felt a bit clumsy, especially Cazaril's doubts about his place in the new political regime of Chalion. Having said all that, this is one of those rare books that, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a satisfying traditional fantasy read.
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'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.
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Started a bit slow but good, realistic fantasy. Don't like young girls as plot element though.
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First book of the new series and the best. Cazaril is deeper, more complex and more convincing than any other character in this world ... so far!
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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.
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An intreging story set in a complex world.: In The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold considers a variety of relisous questions regarding the nature of sainthood, of demons, and of God. Her characters are personable and interesting and the delemas they face are compelling.
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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 Discussions
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