Tim's Reviews > The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
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's review
Jun 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Read from July 06 to 14, 2011

The prose of the plot summary on the back cover of this book is fairly ridiculous and Laura Jean did a pretty funny dramatic reading of it when she picked it up (the phrase "trapped in a maze of demonic paradox" is used, and not ironically). But never fear, the writing style found within the book is not nearly that purple.

In fact, Lois McMaster Bujold has some serious writing chops. The comparisons to Jane Austen you see in some reviews are not total hype -- she is indeed a lovely writer, attentive to character and the social context of her world, humane and often fairly funny. Even if you're not a huge fantasy nerd, you'll probably enjoy the story of Cazaril's slow march toward redemption.

Like a lot of quality fantasy, the author doesn't lean too hard on the fantastic elements, which are more accurately described as theological rather than magical. Her theology is plenty intricate (five gods at work in the world, including one called the Bastard) but also insightful. Supposedly she based her world on Ferdinand and Isabella's 15th century Spain, and the novel doesn't feel too different from a historical romance.

One gripe. Even though Cazaril is an enjoyably unusual fantasy hero -- a physically infirm, sarcastic courtier, more Littlefinger than Ned Stark -- the novel's conclusion feels a little too pat and overdetermined. But the wonderful first half more than makes up for that. The mostly unrelated sequel, Paladin of Souls is also quite good.

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