RogerBW's Blog

Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold 08 June 2018

2003 fantasy, sequel to The Curse of Chalion and set three years later. Ista, widowed mother of the new queen, feels supernumerary – even without her embarrassing history of madness. But the gods haven't finished with her yet.

The theme is of a piece with the first book: sensible grown-ups are the people who get stuff done, the gods interact with the world through people, and the protagonist has been through hell. On the other hand, Ista rails much more against her god-touched fate than Cazaril did, gets into rather more trouble, and ends up in a surprisingly different place.

Do Your second-worst. Your worst, you have done to me already.

You could read this without having read The Curse of Chalion, but I think it's better to see the outside view of Ista there first, before being thrown into her head in this book. This is an epic fantasy story where the way people think is much more important than what magic powers they have.

She stopped, drew breath, looked around at the shocked faces staring back at her. Not one, she realized with a chill, was staring at her as though she had gone mad. They were all staring at her as though she was going to tell them what to do next.

There's less in the way of court life than before, and rather more small drama of people, as well as rather more about sorcery and how it works (this is the first time in the series we meet demons, though of course they're much expanded on in the Penric books). It's all shown more than told, and one of the major ideas from the first book is continued: the gods may need worship, but when it comes to the people they work through in the world they like someone with a bit of spirit who'll get things done rather than a passive praiser.

"Can you, simultaneously, handle a screaming, weeping, distraught woman?"

"Ah," he said, contemplating this unpalatable vision. "Can you?"

"I think so." In fact, I think I'm looking forward to it.

Perhaps Ista's early internal and personal struggles are more compelling than the later external and magical ones against a variety of foes, but she still works as a really interesting character.

Reread for Neil Bowers' Hugo-Nebula Joint Winners Reread.

(Other nominees for the 2004 Best Novel Hugo were Dan Simmons' Ilium, Robert Charles Wilson's Blind Lake and Robert J. Sawyer's Humans, none of which I've read, and Charlie Stross' Singularity Sky – which was OK but for me nowhere near as good as this.)

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: The Curse of Chalion | Series: World of the Five Gods

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1