Bruhold - Curse of Chalion

May 20, 2004

Lois McMaster Bujold - The Curse of Chalion. 2001 Eon/Harper Collins.

Bujold is a fabulously capable writer. I go back and forth about liking her primary series of novels - I like reading them enough that I want to read them in order, but I never get around to chasing them down in order and so I only read them when I stumble across them.

This is in a new setting, and it is most remarkably good. Bujold joins the somewhat recent trend in fantasy and science fiction of taking faith seriously. I say somewhat recent, perhaps because I spent a lot of time reading Analog and Asimov's in the late 1970s and early 1980s when those magazines were engaged in a neo-enlightenment defense of reason and science against newly militant conservative Christians.

Bujold's main character is interesting because, at age 35, he has an extensive history and this history matters. He is a courtier turned soldier, he has been places and done things, and those past actions shape his present and create both problems and opportunities for the future. Bujold places her hero and his surroundings in a kingdom where religion matters and where the gods do intervene occasionaly in daily affairs, and one where while people recognize divine intervention they are also scared silly by it - and rightly so.

I am not giving away much that the dust jacket does not to say that our hero becomes the unlikely but highly effective tutor of a young princess, that the princess gets caught up in the machinations of an evil counsellor to the king, and that the gods end up intervening which both helps and greatly discomfits our hero. The striking thing, for me, was that Bujold went beyond having a simple tale of a corrupt noble and a weak king to a larger discussion about curses, fate, and the paradoxes of predestination.

Let me just say that, discovering a curse and a prophecy to get out of it, some characters struggle to manipulate the prophecy, others surrender to apathy, and others turn to doing what they think best.

She has another out in this world, with the hero of the second book being a minor character in this first book. I have a hold on number two at the library and am looking forward to reading it.

Posted by Red Ted at May 20, 2004 03:46 PM
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