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|Paladin of Souls|
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published by Eos, 2003
Recommended by: Greg Slade
Lois Bujold is back with a new book. This one is a sequel to her second "fat fantasy", The Curse of Chalion. Cazaril, the hero of the first book, does not appear in this book at all, although he is mentioned fairly frequently. This book follows the Dowager Royina Ista, who was widowed as a young bride due to the curse brought upon Chalion by her father-in-law, Roya Fonsa. Thanks to Cazaril's efforts, detailed in the first book, the curse has been lifted from the country, and from Ista's family, but she still bears a grudge against the gods, who allowed the curse to last for so long, and cause so much damage, despite her fervent prayers and her best efforts.
Her smile grew bitter as desert brine. "The gods may forgive Ista all day long. But if Ista does not forgive Ista, the gods may go hang themselves." (p. 60)
All Ista wants is to be left alone, both by the gods, and by the courtiers so determined to protect her from anything, including herself. But, of course, this is Bujold, and nobody ever gets what they want. The gods are after her, and so are the Roknari. The fate of the world is in her hands, and the only clues she gets are infuriating riddles from the half-god, half-demon known as the Bastard, who actually seems to enjoy her cursing him.
In this work, Bujold goes into more detail about the nature of the gods in her fantasy world, and still more detail about demons. If Paladin of Souls fails to live up to the towering achievement of The Curse of Chalion, which is widely regarded as her strongest work yet, it still stands head and shoulders above most of the fantasy works out there. Her gods seem a little smaller this time out, and Ista is entirely too complacent about them, and her relationship to them, and some of the themes, and even some of the phrases, are reminiscent of her Vorkosigan books, but this tale still carries a great deal of power. (October, 2003)
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