The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold has long been esteemed in the science fiction genre, so I expected great things from The Curse of Chalion, and I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed. This is an excellent piece of work! Bujold’s story is completely fresh, and the world-building and magic system are unique, too. I was hooked from page one and it proceeds at a pleasant pace with plenty of surprises and plot twists. Characterization is deep and somehow Bujold made me really like the main character, Cazaril, right from the start, even though he is not the type of hero I thought I preferred. As a psychologist, I especially appreciate how the characters realistically maintained their natural personalities throughout the story while maturing (or becoming more immature) as they grew from their experiences.
And, so importantly, The Curse of Chalion is beautifully written. If you’ve read many of my reviews here, you know that I tend to be very critical about the writing style. But Bujold’s writing is perfect. I’d like to especially mention the dialogue, which I think is so hard for an author to get just right. Some authors make their characters so annoyingly quick-witted and perfect in speech that it’s completely unbelievable. Lois McMaster Bujold characters pause, hem and haw, and say “um” just like I do. And they occasionally have conversations that provide a dry comic relief (I laughed out loud many times).
I read part of this book in print, and I listened to part of it on audiobook. There are many ways an audiobook reader can ruin a book, but I was, as usual, impressed with this Blackstone Audio production. Lloyd James is an excellent reader who has a nice voice and uses different voices and speaking styles for each character. It is very easy to follow and pleasant to listen to. I highly recommend this format for The Curse of Chalion.
The Curse of Chalion is the first in a series of books which are set in the same world and have some of the same characters, but which can be read independently. So, The Curse of Chalion can stand alone if you like, but I think you’ll want to go on to Paladin of Souls because it’s highly decorated (see above) and it tells a story which you’ll want to hear after reading The Curse of Chalion.
This is the first of Bujold’s works that I’ve devoured, and it was absolutely amazing! I loved the combination of political intrigue and magic in The Curse of Chalion, especially what Bujold does with the gods and her magic system. My only problem with it was that I got off to a bit of a slow start — Bujold doesn’t give us an introduction into the world/characters in chapter one, instead choosing to wait a few pages to do it, so I was a little lost for the first few chapters. Other than that, this is a must read!
Related: Penric & Desdemona (2015- )