The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion

Book - 2001
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In a dazzling display of invention and storytelling, the incomparable Lois McMaster Bujold offers us the razor-keen edge of a very different sword...

The Curse of Chalion

On the eve of the Daughter's Day -- the grand celebration that will honor the Lady of Spring, one of the five reigning deities -- a man broken in body and spirit makes his way slowly down the road to Valenda. A former courtier and soldier, Cazaril has survived indignity and horrific torture as a slave aboard an enemy galley. Now he seeks nothing more than a menial job in the kitchens of the Dowager Provincara, in the noble household where he served as page in his youth.

But the gods have greater plans for this humbled man. Welcomed warmly, clothed and fed, he is named, to his great surprise, secretary tutor to the Royesse Iselle -- the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is destined to be the next ruler of the land. But the assignment must ultimately carry Cazaril to the one place he fears even more than the sea: to the royal court of Cardegoss, rife with intrigues and lethal treacheries.

In Cardegoss, the powerful enemies who once placed Cozoril in chains and bound him to a Roknori oar now occupy the most lofty positions in the realm, beneath only the Roya himself. Yet something for more sinister than their scheming hangs like a sword over the royal family: a curse of the blood that taints not only those who would rule, but those who stand in their circle. The life and future of both Iselle and her entire blighted House of Cholion lie in dire peril. The only recourse left to her loyal, damaged servant is the employment of the darkest and most forbidden of magics -- a choice that Will indelibly mark Cazaril as a tool of the miraculous ... and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death for as long as he dares walk the five-fold pathway of the gods.

Only Robert A. Heinlein has won more Hugo Awards for Best Novel than Lois McMaster Bujold, a singularly lauded author whose work has been compared to Jane Austen's. Now channeling her remarkable storytelling genius in an exciting new direction, she creates a riveting tale rich in atmosphere, magic, character, and consequence that twists and turns in unanticipated ways. Much more than simply the next eagerly awaited tour de force by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion is a stunning masterwork of fantastic invention that demonstrates the vast range of her astonishing tolents -- and elevates her into the pantheon of premier contemporary fantasists.

Publisher: New York : Eos, c2001.
ISBN: 9780380979011
Characteristics: 442 p. ; 25 cm.


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Dec 15, 2020

What an unusual and enjoyabale protagonist.

May 28, 2020

This is hands down one of my favorite books of all time. Bujold is one of the greatest writers currently publishing, and this is her best work in my opinion. The characters, the setting, the theology, it's all perfect. Bujold's fictional pantheon is the only theological writing I've ever seen that has managed to convince me that so-called omnipotent deities can be powerless to affect the human world, and that such a limitation makes a lick of sense.

There are so many amazing characters in this book. Cazaril, a broken man who wants nothing but to crawl into a corner and hide, but who steps up into a difficult and dangerous role when asked by the woman who takes him in. Iselle, the young princess who is smart enough to know how little she knows and how dangerous her position is. Betriz, the lady in waiting who is willing to die for Iselle, if only that would help. The villains are just as interesting, ranging from simple violent brutes to a calculating genius who might well have been a hero had he not been caught up in the divine curse that drives the story.

In short, great setting, great characters, fantastic story, read it now!

Feb 18, 2020

Loved it. Wish she would have spread this out over the next two books as the main characters in those books are not as compelling as Cazeril. One of the better fantasy novels out there.

IndyPL_SteveB Nov 24, 2018

Excellent fantasy novel by one of the most-awarded SF authors, who is a master of plotting and character. Cazaril is a soldier returning from horrific war experiences. As he travels back to his country of Chalion, hoping to find some minor position in a castle, he runs across a terrible example of “death magic”. Death magic, in this series, is where an individual gives himself over to a god and trades his life in return for the death of his enemy. Cazaril is hired as a tutor and secretary to Iselle, one of the heirs to throne of Chalion, and discovers that a curse caused by death magic hangs over the royal family, although it is known to few.

One of the highlights is the unique religious environment Bujold has invented. In this world, there are indeed Five Gods: The Father of Winter, The Mother of Summer, The Daughter of Spring, The Son of Autumn, and The Bastard. The Gods are *real*. They exist and can affect human life but only through influencing humans willing to be open to them. They cannot enter the physical world. Cazaril becomes “touched” by two of the Gods, a terrifying thing, especially as he becomes aware that he may be the one person who can overturn the curse; but perhaps only if he dies – three times.

A great, great book if you love fantasy, especially if you are entertained by characters and political intrigue more than sword-fighting and monsters.

SPPL_János Mar 13, 2018

Bujold builds detailed plots involving political intrigue and a surprisingly interesting theology of gods and demons around her likeable characters. There's some action and a good dose of romance, weaving into a very satisfying whole. This is a good introduction for readers new to the fantasy genre: it works as a standalone and isn't a sprawling epic with dozens of characters to try to keep track of.

Mar 14, 2017

An excellent example of fantasy writing. This is the second novel I've read by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I enjoyed this one even more than the first. She weaves a beautifully rich and detailed setting for her characters that are dynamic, multi-faceted and wholly complete. The plot twists and winds through a combination of royal intrigue, war and magic--seamlessly woven together. If I had anything negative to say it would be that the ending seemed a bit forced and weak after an intense and expertly written climax. I almost wish it could have ended soon after the climax as it kind of petered out afterwards. But, in all, it was a wonderful read that entices me to continue reading Bujold's works.

Sep 07, 2015

Cazaril, once a beloved servant and soldier of the kingdom of Chalion and its most powerful houses, is on the long journey home after several years as a slave on a ship. He has his suspicions of how he came to be abandoned to the Roknari slavers, with no ransom coming to claim him despite all his high connections, but after all his suffering, Cazaril just wants to return home to a simple life. He seeks a lowly position in the house where he’d once been employed as a courier when he was young, but when his aged former mistress lays eyes on him, she has a much higher summoning for him.

The Provincara has in her care her daughter, the widow of the last king, and her grandchildren, the princess and prince of the realm and siblings of the current King Orico. It happens that the young royals are in need of a tutor with deep knowledge of the kingdom of Chalion and its surrounding provinces, an understanding of martial command, and bred with noble manners. In a word, Cazaril. Quite unexpectedly, Cazaril finds himself serving as the personal secretary and tutor to the clever and sharp Iselle and her lady-in-waiting, Betriz.

Once Cazaril has found comfort and solace in his new life, everything is flipped on its side. The young royals are summoned to court by their brother the king and Cazaril comes face to face with those who designed his betrayal years ago. Once a soldier, once a keeper of the nobles’ intrigues as a young courier, Cazaril now has no desire for action or playing the game of court. But the gods have other plans for him, and eventually Cazaril’s hand is forced in a way that will change the whole dynasty of Chalion and cost Cazaril more than his life.

For all his traditionally heroic deeds in war and his role in noble secrets in his younger days, Cazaril is now foremost a sensitive and quiet man. Physical manifestations of romance in this romantic fantasy novel are rare treats, but Cazaril is a constant romantic in his ideals. I was quickly endeared to him–I cannot resist a man who locks himself in his room to cry. Iselle and her quick wit make for a great princess, especially between her prematurely aged brother Orico and rash young Teidez. The Chalion court is full of great characters, kind priests and conniving lords. I appreciate that there are many characters with good intentions and that there are friends to be found–not being able to trust anyone in the grimdark novels of late gets exhausting.

While political and spiritual stakes are high, the real sense of drama comes from how much the reader is brought to care about the characters. It’s not just because Iselle is a princess that I care about her marriage prospects; I wanted this kind and clever girl to have a husband worthy of her. Even ineffectual Orico stirs more sympathy than frustration. And sweet Cazaril, whose suffering appears doomed to be never-ending, and all borne with a grace and acceptance that make his violent prospects all the more tragic.

This is certainly not the last book by Louise McMaster Bujold I’ll be reading. I loved her story crafting and her writing, especially the dialogue. I don’t know that I’ll continue with the next Chalion book–at least, not anytime soon–but perhaps The Sharing Knife. It was so easy to love her world and the people in it, from their small personal hopes to their great sense of spirituality. I will never know how I got this far in my fantasy reading career without learning her name until now, but this has been corrected. I’ll take more romantic fantasy please! Is there an aisle for that at the library?

Jul 19, 2015

I have not read a lot of fantasy novels but this book is certainly encouraging me to read more. Great characters and solid story line.

Oct 29, 2013

I love this book my copy is falling apart i've read it so many times.

Jun 25, 2013

Loved this book so much I reread it again a few days later!

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