If you haven’t read The Curse of Chalion this review will contain small spoilers for that book, but not for Paladin of Souls.
Before you read Paladin of Souls I highly recommend you read The Curse of Chalion. You don’t have to, but Chalion does a lot of heavy lifting for the religion, and world that the books are set in. There are also characters, and events referenced in Paladin from Chalion. You don’t have to if you’d rather not however as Paladin will cover, in less detail, what you need to know from Chalion.
Paladin of Souls begins three years after The Curse of Chalion ends, and follows a woman named Ista. Like in Cazaril in Chalion, Ista is a grown adult. At 40 years old she has been a wife, the queen, a mother, god-touched, a widow, and is now the mother of a queen. Unlike Cazaril however Ista has no idea who she truly is. She has been defined by each of these roles in turn, but never been free to discover who she is outside of these roles.
She has also spent most of her adult life under a curse, deemed mad, and so confined and cared for by loved ones. Now that this curse has been released she wants to escape the gilded cage that her life has been, and discover herself. She embarks on a quest to do just that, but quickly becomes evolved in events well beyond her control. What she finds during these events is more than she bargained for!
My first instinct is to say that Paladin is not as epic as Chalion was, but that isn’t really true, or fair. Without giving spoilers I can say that there are forces at play in Paladin which are far more dangerous to the kingdom than anything in the first book. It just doesn’t always feel that way at times because we so stay closely zoomed in on Ista herself who doesn’t actually move around much during this story. As a result it feels like there is less going on even when that isn’t the case.
Staying so tightly focused on Ista does make this feel more personal than Chalion. We get to know Ista very well. Which is pretty awesome because she is an amazing character. I just love how Bujold writes her protagonists. She gives them a depth and complexity that is hard to find. They are intelligent, self-aware, flawed, but also filled with strength. I’ll stop myself there because I could go on, and on, and on about her characters!
As mentioned earlier we see less of the world, but we do get to discover new places which weren’t in Chalion. Also, we see a lot more magic in Paladin than in Chalion. More of the gods as well. Well, maybe about the same, but there is more interaction from the gods anyway.
There are two romances going on in this book. One revolves around some minor characters which quite I enjoyed, and I thought it was done very well. I was less appreciative of the romance for Ista. Don’t get me wrong I liked the match, but it happened quite suddenly. I would have preferred it had been given more time to develop, or that it had ended so that we knew they would end up together later once they had had said time.
It was a small thing however, and I loved Paladin of Souls every bit as much as I loved The Curse of Chalion. I look forward to reading the last book in the series, The Hallowed Hunt, when I get a chance.
My Rating: ☆☆☆☆