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Paladin of Souls
Paladin of Souls is Lois McMaster Bujold's latest foray into the world of Chalion. The novel showcases a new protagonist, dowager Royina Ista, or "Mad Ista" as she was introduced in The Curse of Chalion.
The story opens with Ista turning her back on the five gods of Chalion, and using them as her excuse to partake in a false pilgrimage and flee her sheltered existence in the city of Valenda. With the smallest contingent possible, she travels from one holy site to another in search of something she can't explain. She dares not call it peace for she doesn't believe that the gods will allow her to have that. Her impetuous wish to escape the pageantry of court proves disastrous when her dreams are haunted with god sent visions and enemy Jokonan forces capture her tiny troupe.
Can Ista reconcile with the gods? What of the bastard, the quintarian's fifth god whose control of his demon's seems to be slipping? His sense of humor is lost on her when she finds herself infatuated with an animated dead man.
Paladin of Souls opened a bit slowly but Bujold built the tension masterfully. As always, Bujold's characters are well crafted and engaging. Told in limited third pov, the story has a much closer feel as Ista's internal thoughts are revealed to the reader. Her journey from bitterness and detachment to empowered self-choice and confidence is a delightful tale laden with magic and suspense.
While I read Bujold's Vorkosigan novels completely at random and had no problem following the stories, I would not recommend reading Paladin of Souls without reading Curse of Chalion first. The novel could stand on its own but the wealth of world building and back-story add tremendously to the experience. As Curse of Chalion is a well-written novel, starting at the beginning is hardly a problem.
Lois McMaster Bujold has won more Hugo Awards for Best
Novel than any other author with the exception of Robert A. Heinlein.
Reading her novels, I understand why that is. As writer, I continually
aspire to improve my prose and while I do not wish to emulate any
author's style, I would like to write as well as Mrs. Bujold.
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