fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Curse of ChalionThe 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.

~Kat Hooper

book review Curse of ChalionThis 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!

~Kevin Wei

The World of the Five Gods — (2001-2016) Publisher: 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 Cazaril 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 Chalion 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.

Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, The Hallowed Hunt fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, The Hallowed Hunt

Related: Penric & Desdemona (2015- )

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic book reviewsPenric's Fox: Penric and Desdemona Book 3 Kindle Edition by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author) Penric's Mission (Penric & Desdemona Book 3) Kindle Edition by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author) Mira's Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona Book 4) Kindle Edition by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author) The Orphans of Raspay: A Penric and Desdemona novella in the World of the Five Gods (Penric & Desdemona Book 7) Kindle Edition


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

    View all posts
  • Kevin Wei

    KEVIN WEI, with us since December 2014, is political/digital strategist based in Harlem. Secretly, Kevin has always believed in dragons. Not the Smaug kind of dragon, only the friendly ones that invite you in for tea (Funke’s Dragon Rider was the story that mercilessly hauled him into the depths of SF/F at the ripe old age of 5). Kevin loves epic fantasy, military SF/F, New Weird, and some historical fantasy; some of his favorite authors include Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Django Wexler, and Joe Abercrombie. In his view, a good book requires not only a good character set and storyline, but also beautiful prose — he's extremely particular about this last bit. You can find him at:

    View all posts