The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
Plot Summary: 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, secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is as assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions. But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge -- an act that will mark the loyal, damaged servant as a tool of the miraculous ... and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death.
Jim’s Review: I first picked up The Curse of Chalion because of how much I enjoy Bujold’s other series, the Vorkosigan Saga. I quickly noted similarities:
- A male protagonist stigmatized in his society by physical injuries, as that society values physical prowess as a sign of masculinity.
- Injuries were inflicted upon him by enemy forces.
- He uses quick wits in an attempt to compensate for his physical limitations.
- He performs a series of high-risk activities, believing he’s the only one he can count on to do so.
- He falls in love with a woman he can’t believe might actually return that love.
But to stop with this list of similarities does a disservice to both series. The characters of Chalion are distinct, engaging, and have emotional depth. The theology is consistent and well thought out, with the gods a pleasant mix of the familiar and transcendent. The plot starts out slow, but once it builds up momentum, it really carries you along. This is one book I will enjoy reading again.
You might enjoy this book if you enjoyed:
Lois McMaster Bujold’sVorkosigan Saga
L. E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluce
Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera