Book Review: The Curse of Chalion ☆☆☆☆

the_curse_of_chalion_coverOkay so in SF/F booktube circles I constantly hear the name Lois McMaster Bujold. Especially in regards to her SF Vorkosigan Saga which has something like 15 books, and is still going strong. I’m not quite ready to make that leap, but I did find The Curse of Chalion and thought I’d give her a read. I’m glad I did!

Let me just say right off that this starts out slow. It really started picking up for me about the halfway point. Before that it’s all backstory, politics, and world building. Which isn’t a bad thing as these are all very well done.

By far my favorite part of this book is our hero, Cazaril. When we meet him he’s at the low point in his life. He is, as the synopsis says, broken in body and spirit. To the point where he has basically become a beggar trying to find a place at the foot of his old lord’s table. I won’t go into specifics, but he wasn’t always this way. He was once proud, and respected before a cruel fate taught him humility, caution, and fear.

What I loved most about Cazaril is that this isn’t the story of a young man’s heroic journey. He’s been there, done that, and now just wants to relax by a fire enjoying such comfort as he can find. He’s 35, not 15, or even 18. He thinks, and acts like an actual adult. He knows exactly who he is. He capitalizes on his strengths while acknowledging, and wherever possible minimizes his weaknesses. He knows the difference between being a macho warrior, and a professional soldier. It was refreshing when so much of fantasy is plagued by young, cocky heroes doing downright stupid things.

The magic of this world was almost nonexistent, and yet compelling. Magic is preformed as answered prayers from one of the five gods of the land. These miracles rarely happen, but when they do they are a double edged sword. The gods touch with a heavy hand, and use their faithful roughly.

I also enjoyed the two main female characters. They are both teenagers, but they are strong, and intelligent young women instead of being simple, shallow beauties. Thankfully they acted appropriately to their circumstance. By that I mean too often women, and men as well!, in fantasy will just suddenly pick up a sword, master it in a few weeks (or days), and rush off to defeat all their foes in martial combat. Not that there is anything wrong with that in the right story, beyond the time it takes to become proficient, but it rarely fits. Instead these women who were raised for court survived, thrived really, by using their wit to outmaneuver their political opponents with shrewd intrigue.

The villains are people. They are shaded gray instead of being completely evil. I didn’t empathize with them, but I did understand them and their motives. The book even points out how given the same circumstances our hero might have become a version of them himself.

Finally their is a romance, and it is done exceptionally well.

I can’t wait to read the next in the series which won a hugo, and nebula award. There really wasn’t anything I didn’t enjoy about this book. As such I’m torn between giving this 4 or 5 stars. It didn’t blow my mind like The Fifth Season, but slowly built up to one of the more enjoyable reads I’ve had in a long time. My initial instinct was 4 so I’m going to stick to that, but I reserve the right to change my mind later.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Curse of Chalion ☆☆☆☆

  1. I also have been meaning to pick up the 15 book series, but that’s such a commitment lol. Thank you for putting this one on my radar. I think I’d like it. 🙂 I’ve read the first book of her beguilement series, but nothing else so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve often heard how great Bujold is too, but have never read her books. Your Paladin of Souls review sent me here and now I really want to try Curse of Chalion. What got me is what you said of how the magic system works. It seems to hint a bit at religion so I’d like to learn more. Also, the age of the protagonist is appealing. I hardly hear of fantasy books where the protagonist is older.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So I borrowed and started the book yesterday and already I’m hooked despite the slow build. I really like Cazaril’s character. He’s very different from heroes/protagonists I’m used to in fantasy series.
        Great recommendation! Thanks! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m happy to have brought it to your attention! I only wish I had known about it sooner myself. There are honestly not enough good things I can say about the series thus far. It’s crazy to say considering how many awards she’s won, but Bujold is tragically underrated.

          Liked by 1 person

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