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The Curse of Chalion (World of the Five Gods (Publication) #1)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  26,377 Ratings  ·  1,849 Reviews
A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril, has returned to the noble household he once served as page, and is named, to his great surprise, as the secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule.

It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it will ultimately lead him to the place he fears most, the royal court of Cardegoss
Paperback, 490 pages
Published February 3rd 2003 by Voyager (first published December 2000)
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Bernadette Durbin This series is set in the same world, but with widely disparate eras. The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls are a pair, set in that order, but…moreThis series is set in the same world, but with widely disparate eras. The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls are a pair, set in that order, but Hallowed Hunt not only takes place centuries before, but in a different country. The Penric novellas, also set in this world, are from an even different time period. As long as you read the books from any given era in order, you should be fine—and if Bujold later adds earlier books in the same era, my experience with her Vorkosigan books suggests that it will not detract from the reader's enjoyment if they are encountered in publication, rather than chronological, order.(less)
Dan Gunderson There isn't much *explicit* romantic activity, I think it's fair to say that. That stuff largely goes on "off-screen," so to speak. But romance is…moreThere isn't much *explicit* romantic activity, I think it's fair to say that. That stuff largely goes on "off-screen," so to speak. But romance is actually a pretty significant component of the story itself. Arranged marriages in loveless relationships, unrequited love, diplomatic marriage, extramarital exploits -- all of those things play a part in the plot. And naturally, there's a significant potential romance for the main character, that holds you in anticipation until the end of the book.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
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mark monday
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantastical
when i was younger, i was always confused by the moniker of "Adult Fantasy" (less used today, but more common decades ago). i assumed it meant Sexy Sextime and possibly Ultra-Violence, but that was never the case... what it ended up meaning to me was BORING, I Can't Finish This.

well now that i am clearly an adult, i get it. for example, Curse of Chalion. this is definitely an Adult Fantasy. it does not feature sex - if anything, it is rather pleasingly old-fashioned and discreet about sex. and i
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Funny thing: halfway through this book I found myself thinking about what it is that makes Bujold's writing so distinctive in the world of science fiction and fantasy (she's another one of these writers who straddles both worlds), and it suddenly came to me that she was like Jane Austen, interested most of all in people and their relationships in constraint-ridden societies. After finishing the book I glance idly at the "About the Author" blurb on the inside back jacket and it says that people o ...more
Mayim de Vries
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“How strangely we are blinded by the surfaces of things.”

What is a diamond? A lump of ordinary coal that took pressure exceptionally well. Castillar Lupe dy Cazaril is your diamond in this story. And please do not call him broken, there is nothing broken about the diamond, even before it is cut to gain the proper shine and brilliance.

The Curse of Chalion is a story told from the margins of a great power play. You know all these books sporting princes and princesses fighting for or defending the
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first time I read this, I was torn between my respect for Bujold and the slow burning plot of this first fantasy I had ever read by her. It didn't hurt that it was nominated for the Hugo, as she had been nominated over and over, winning several for her classic SF series, but I was like, "What? Fantasy? But she's so excellent with SF, why switch?" And then when I started reading it, there were none of the fast-paced elements or larger than life characters that I expected.

In fact, other than t
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those thrown to the whims of fate
It's hard reviewing books that I really like, especially when I don’t really have a systemic way to determine whether or not a book deserves a five star rating (i.e., the I-want-to-sing-and-gush rating).

So, I thought, what the hey. Let me start this review from the point in time when I first realized that this book was a WIN. And this particular review that was written by a mind that was blown starts out with a sob story:

Last week one morning, I woke up with my face feeling stuffed and itchy, e
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really three and a half stars. A slow start for me, but sometimes good stories take a while to build, and by the end, I couldn't put it down.

There is an interesting mix of characters, somewhat archetypical but done well enough that they developed uniqueness. A feudal system, a failing monarch, an unscrupulous chancellor, a strong-minded but elderly female ruler, young heirs running wild, but all with twists that give them individuality. I do appreciate the hero, Cazaril, being developed more al
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
*** 4.44 ***

A buddy read with my friends at Fantasy Buddy Reads group! Because we love all fantasy, and the well written ones even more!!!

"...“In mysticism, knowledge cannot be separated from a certain way of life which becomes its living manifestation. To acquire mystical knowledge means to undergo a transformation; one could even say that the knowledge is the transformation. Scientific knowledge, on the other hand, can often stay abstract and theoretical. Thus most of today’s physicists do no
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre_fantasy
Fantasy books these days are often rough. They swear, they rape, they mutilate and pillage. They are dark or grimdark or "realistic". I like this trend a lot, but once in a while there comes a book that is none of that.

Enter "The Curse of the Chalion". This book is polite. It's quiet and beautiful, perhaps sophisticated sometimes. It tells a great story and has a very relatable and likeable main protagonist.

Cazaril, our main character and only view point perspective, is 35. In the course of the
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I am myself surprised at how much I liked this book. Generally I prefer books that are plot driven. Now and then however a wonderful book comes along built on the characters within.This is definitely a character driven story.

There is about this story (much of the way) a melancholy feel of the inevitable doomed hero moving inexorably toward his fate... to go on here about whether said hero meets said fate and so on would constitute (of course) THE spoiler of all spoilers. Let me say however that
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I've read Curse of Chalion twice over the years and loved it both times. It is a fantasy story with an original feel and with a truly unique main character. The story was not high on action but had plenty of intrigue and a dose of interesting magic and world building that resulted in it always being a compelling read.

The story followed Lord Lupe dy Cazaril. At his peak he was a courtier, castle-warder, and captain; but now he has just escaped for the oar benches of a slave galley and is a shado
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is top notch quality fantasy. It has politics, scheming, a well defined system of gods and religion, well developed characters who all develop in leaps and bounds through the story. The story is a slow burner, but it’s so good you won’t care. It reminds me a little of the Dagger and Coin series (which is exceptional and one of my favourite fantasy series) and in terms of pacing, Robin Hobb, a definite contender for my favourite fantasy author). I hope the rest of the series lives up to its ...more
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-top20
“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” *

That is Lois McMaster Bujold effortlessly describing what I often feel about excellent writing but lack the skill to articulate. What I like best about starting a Bujold book is that feeling of homecoming. I know that I will like the prose, I know that the characters will be interesting and believable, I don't know if I will like her plot be
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
3.5 stars.

This is a well-written story filled with politics, adventures, blessings and magic. The main plot was straightforward and enjoyable although the prominence of gods and curses undermined the importance of the characters while making the political machinations seem somewhat trivial. The real strength of this book was in it's protagonist Cazaril. A decorated soldier, his betrayal and imprisonment left him a shattered husk at the beginning of this novel. More than a story of war and polit
“Well, what is a blessing but a curse from another point of view?”
I’ve been reading fantasy for a long time, however The Curse of Chalion revealed a new variation of the genre for me, which I loved. Here we don’t get to know a fantastical world, action-packed adventure with strange and out of our experience characters. It reminded me of a medieval world with power struggles not unheard of, but at the same time ultimately unique. It’s profound in that it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is,
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
A highly satisfying and timeless tale of a broken hero’s recovery. Those who expect a typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy from the title or cover will be disappointed. Fans of Bujold’s sci fi Vorkosigan Saga should feel right at home with the strengths evident here: character development, world building, complex enemies, great dialogue, understated romance, and limited but well-framed episodes of violence.

In a Medieval setting of competing kingdoms, the nobleman Cazaril served Chalion well in one
Mayim de Vries
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“How strangely we are blinded by the surfaces of things.”

What is a diamond? A lump of ordinary coal that took pressure exceptionally well. Castillar Lupe dy Cazaril is your diamond in this story. And please do not call him broken, there is nothing broken about the diamond, even before it is cut to gain the proper shine and brilliance.

The Curse of Chalion is a story told from the margins of a great power play. You know all these books sporting princes and princesses fighting for or defending the
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is exactly the sort of fantasy I love. Slow to build, but full of great ideas and fantastic world and character development. At times it reminded me a bit of Hobb's writing style (this is very high praise from me) and I really enjoyed being able to follow a character who was 35 rather than a typical 'farmboy' etc. (although we all know I love a good farmboy story too)

This book focuses around Cazeril, a man who has had one hell of a life. Cazeril is a war veteran at the age of just 35. He's
Last Monday I bought a house. Since then I haven't read a single page of a book, or written a single word of a review.

I have, however, stripped a lot of wallpaper, painted skirting boards and ceilings, planed and re-hung six doors, packed, carried and unpacked an awful lot of boxes, built a couple of beds, a cot and a bookcase, battled cats into cages and entertained a toddler.

This has nothing to do with Curse of Chalion, but having read a lot of Bujold's work and got a feel for how she thinks
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
***Actual rating: 5,00***

Simply stunning.
The best classic fantasy I've read in ages. Characterisation of the main character probably the best I've ever read.
Executive Summary: It took me a little bit to warm up to, but in the end I found this an enjoyable read.

Full Review
I read this as the August pick for Sword & Laser. Despite considering myself more Sword than Laser (or maybe because I do?), I think overall I've been mostly disappointed with the Sword picks, especially the last two.

This one however, did not disapoint. It starts a bit slow. The pacing reminded me a bit of Assassin's Apprentice, so you if you enjoyed those books, you may enjoy
The Curse of Chalion is the story of a noble, broken man who has just managed to escape from slavery. Once a soldier and a lord, Cazaril is now almost to the end of his rope, destitute, friendless, and betrayed. The first part of the book is the story of how he rebuilds his life, and how his sense of honor brings him to continue giving his life and loyalty to Chalion even when he feels he has nothing left to give.

It's a slow start - I didn't see what the point of it all was for quite a while. Ca
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great book!
It reminded me to put everything by Bujold that I haven't read on my wishlist!
Engaging characters meet an action-filled plot with tons of plotting and intrigue. I have to admit that this kind of "castle intrigue" is definitely one of my favorite genres of novels. I'd very much recommend this to fans of George R.R. Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay.

My edition came with blurbs from Robert Jordan & Dennis McKiernan, and an ad for the latest Weis & Hickman - all of which, I must a
Megan Baxter
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I realized something as I was reading this book. Many fantasy books, when they involve any kind of court culture, have as their viewpoint character someone who doesn't know how it works, and blunders around until he or she figures it out. It's relatively rare to have the main character be someone who does know exactly how things work. Cazaril, the main character, is such a man. He isn't a quintessential courtier by any means, but he knows how things work.

Note: The rest of this review has been wi
Tom Merritt
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful world. The work that went into researching medieval Spain sows, as does theincrediblemimagination that went into turning the story into its own consistent telling rather than just a metaphor. Now layer on top of that a deep theological debate nested in an other-worldly system where the debate is not between monotheistic beliefs and their prophets, but polytheistic beliefs and the acceptance or rejection of a lucifer-like god as a force for good or ill. Top it all off with stron ...more
Andreea Daia
I loved this book so much and for so many reasons that I wish there was a 6-star rating. I happened to listen to an audio version of this novel, but I am considering reading it too just to take it apart and analyze under the microscope the writing style. Why? Because Ms. Lois McMaster Bujold's technique is probably as close to artistry as modern writing gets!

Let me start by saying that I read several reviews (possible some of them were from Amazon) stating that the novel is too long and it shoul
Laura (Kyahgirl)
4/5; 4 stars; A-

This is great fantasy writing. I loved the character Caz. He starts out the story in a state of utter destruction. He is so damaged and sick and heart sore, yet at the same time brilliant and courageous and strong. Just the kind of main character I can really get behind. Under his tutelage his royal charge, Iselle, grows into her role and really shines.

Another thing I liked about this book was the Five Gods themselves. The theology of this fantasy world is interesting.

One of th
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful fantasy, definitely different than the normal run. A unique theology & take on it is the backbone of the tale, so it's far more than just another hero hacking his way through the bad guys. In fact, if that's what you're looking for, read a different book. This one has complex politics, a semi-broken hero, romance, horror, & far more.

This broken hero is different than Miles from her Vorkosigan series in many ways, but if you like those SF yarns, you'll probably like t
Brianne Reeves
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I really really liked this. It was entertaining, with some serious intrigue. Action, but not too much, well paced.
Pauline Ross
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know what anyone else looks for in their fantasy, but for me the number one requirement is characters I care about. This is hard to define, of course; I can’t describe what it is that creates emotional engagement in that way (if I could, I’d bottle it and sell it), but I know it when I see it.

And Cazaril is it, indubitably and without question. From the moment he walks onstage in his rags on page 1, he is a man I care deeply about, someone I’m rooting for all the way. He’s not great hero
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: babble-added, weep
This is a book I can pick up over and over again. It never gets did she do it? Reasons I love this series:

1. The religion has 5 deities: Daughter, Mother, Son, Father, and Bastard. The Bastard! How great is that? They each have their special areas of godliness but the Bastard is like the thumb, able to touch and balance all the others. In a way, the Bastard is the most powerful. Yeah! (Note: Me being tickled by there being a Bastard god does not mean I am a bastard*)

2. She writes so th
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Lois McMaster Bujold was born in 1949, the daughter of an engineering professor at Ohio State University, from whom she picked up her early interest in science fiction. She now lives in Minneapolis, and has two grown children.

Her fantasy from HarperCollins includes the award-winning Chalion series and the Sharing Knife tetralogy; her science fiction from Baen Books features the perennially bestse
More about Lois McMaster Bujold

Other books in the series

World of the Five Gods (Publication) (3 books)
  • Paladin of Souls (World of the Five Gods, #2)
  • The Hallowed Hunt (World of the Five Gods, #3)

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“Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be. And I do not like feeling stupid.” 89 likes
“Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice - if not whether, then how, they may endure.” 83 likes
More quotes…