The Curse of Chalion

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On February 8, 2015
Last modified:February 8, 2015


61886Title: The Curse of Chalion
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Genre: Fantasy, epic fantasy, political fantasy

Opening sentence:

Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them.

I picked this up because I had just finished reading Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen and was reminded just how much I adore fantasy that is all about politics. Not the politics of our world (though I like that as well) but the political games of second world fantasy. I like intrigue, spycraft and political maneuvering in my fiction. There is a reason why West Wing and Spooks are among my favourite tv-series. The Curse of Chalion had turned up in my recommendations when I based them on Trickster’s Queen. It had really good reviews from a stack of authors whom I respect so I thought, why not give it a go.

This was a strange book to read for me, because my interest in sitting down and reading it really varied over the course of the book. The first book was kind of dull, but I kept going because of the amount of praise the book had gotten. About 10% in characters all had gotten introduced and the next bit was schooling/class scene which I like. The next part of the book had me glued to the pages. I looked forward to finding time to read it – I even read in my lunch break at work. But for the last 30% I found it hard to convince myself to sit down and read. The story had pretty much either wrapped up or I knew where it was going, so it felt a bit dragged out. This is something I sometimes like but here I found it a bit tiresome, which was a shame because I had liked most of the book quite a bit.

So why did I like the parts that I did like? I like the way religion was handled in the book and that part of the world building fascinated me. The rest of the world building was pretty standard. Both the gods, the religious practice and the theology dissections had my quite interested. I love different takes on religion and this one was fascinating.  Normally it is bad style to let coincident help the plot along but the theological underpinnings of the story made it work here.

What about the characters and the plot? I really liked the protagonists in the story they were all well rounded and interested people with flaws and virtues. They all had goals and dreams as well as things that distracted them from those goals – in other words they felt like real people. The plot in of itself is pretty straightforward but has enough twists along the way to be interesting.

To talk more about the plot and charater I think I have to do it in a spoiler bracket

About 1/3 though the book Cazaril (the POV character) is sacrificing his life for one of the other protagonists. Weirdly I was disappointed when he did not die, like Cazaril I felt a bit cheated that he didn’t get to make his sacrifice. Not normally the reaction I would think I would have. I think I felt emotionally cheated because I had been shedding a preemptive tear for him. 

Cazaril is an interesting character. He sees himself as quite old, he is in his early thirties. His body is not what it has been and especially his stamina has taken quite a hit. He has been a slave on a galley and was quite broken from that experience. He also clearly has some form of ptsd from that experience and his time in war as a soldier.  Throughout the book he insist that he is quite old, and while he is not old of years he is certainly very experienced. 

This makes it a bit jarring to me when he end up with a 19-year-old women who has been in his care. That just feels a bit icky to me. That might be because I am a teacher and the thought of being with any of my students – even the very grown up ones seems wrong to me. The power dynamic of that kind of relationship could so easily be problematic. That relationship also fell into the trope of the male hero needing to be rewarded for his deeds with a female spouse who loves and adores him. That just seemed a bit off to me in a book that otherwise doesn’t have anything else that I find problematic.

So to sum up: Fascinating religious world-building, good characters, well written and I recommend it.

The stats

Published: 2000 by HarperCollins
Read: January 17 to 25, 2015
Format: ebook

Author: Female, white, USA
The protagonist: male, heterosexual, adult, x-solior, disabled.

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