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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, as the secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule.

It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it will ultimately lead him to the place he fears most, the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies, who once placed him in chains, now occupy lofty positions. In addition to the traitorous intrigues of villains, Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle, are faced with a sinister curse that hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. 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.

490 pages, Paperback

First published August 14, 2001

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About the author

Lois McMaster Bujold

183 books37.7k followers
Lois McMaster Bujold was born in 1949, the daughter of an engineering professor at Ohio State University, from whom she picked up her early interest in science fiction. She now lives in Minneapolis, and has two grown children.

Her fantasy from HarperCollins includes the award-winning Chalion series and the Sharing Knife tetralogy; her science fiction from Baen Books features the perennially bestselling Vorkosigan Saga. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages.

A listing of her awards and nominations may be seen here:

http://www.sfadb.com/Lois_McMaster_Bu...

A listing of her interviews is here:

http://vorkosigan.wikia.com/wiki/Auth...

An older fan-run site devoted to her work, The Bujold Nexus, is here:

http://www.dendarii.com/




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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,802 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,101 followers
December 30, 2011
when i was younger, i was always confused by the moniker of "Adult Fantasy" (less used today, but more common decades ago). i assumed it meant Sexy Sextime and possibly Ultra-Violence, but that was never the case... what it ended up meaning to me was BORING, I Can't Finish This.

well now that i am clearly an adult, i get it. for example, Curse of Chalion. this is definitely an Adult Fantasy. it does not feature sex - if anything, it is rather pleasingly old-fashioned and discreet about sex. and it does not feature extreme violence - the violent moments are just that, 'moments', and there is no juvenile dwelling on the pornography of blood, guts, & pain (although there is definitely blood, guts, and pain in our protagonist's life).

Curse of Chalion is Adult Fantasy in a few ways.

first, it is all about the interior life and the slow-burning changes in a broken man. he is a man in constant turmoil - one who lives in fear due to his tormented past and the betrayals that haunt him, one whose path appears to be a slow, step-by-step attempt at staying under the radar while looking out for the interests of those he loves. Cazaril is a hero, but not an easy one. action is not his automatic response (and so when it does occur, it is genuinely thrilling). the reader will find little knee-jerk wish fulfillment in his carefully-considered feints & moves. he is one of the most thoughtful protagonists i've come across in Fantasy and a truly Grown Up, Adult Hero.

second, the pacing is very deliberate. this is not a novel where action jumps off the page in a big rush. it moves at a conservative pace, bringing the reader along on Cazaril's slow journey. it forces you into understanding what makes the man, why he acts the way he does, before finally picking up the pace and beginning Adventure Time - if you can even call such a thoughtful progression An Adventure. it seems almost purposefully designed to throw off the rather shallow needs of the thrill-seeking reader (and i include myself in that group). the book is thoughtful.

third, religion is front and center. there is magic in Curse of Chalion - Death Magic even - but it is linked entirely with the worship of 5 gods & goddesses. it is a painful sort of magic. it is a deep and rich and nuanced portrait of religion. i loved it. the novel's intense and nuanced focus on faith and spirituality was my favorite part of the experience.

and finally, it features the inclusion of a major supporting character who is queer. it did not feel arbitrary, the character is not there as some form of liberal tokenism, there was no stereotypical nonsense to annoy me, and the character and his actions are completely organic to the story - he is not shoe-horned into the narrative. as a queer, i really appreciate this sensitive, realistic, and exploitation-free approach.
Profile Image for Guy.
155 reviews66 followers
June 15, 2008
Funny thing: halfway through this book I found myself thinking about what it is that makes Bujold's writing so distinctive in the world of science fiction and fantasy (she's another one of these writers who straddles both worlds), and it suddenly came to me that she was like Jane Austen, interested most of all in people and their relationships in constraint-ridden societies. After finishing the book I glance idly at the "About the Author" blurb on the inside back jacket and it says that people often compare her to Jane Austen. So, not an original observation, but more reliable for being an independent duplicate.

Also like Jane Austen, her books tend to be fairly similar to one another... even though she writes both science fiction and fantasy. If you like one (as I do), you'll probably like them all... but I wouldn't recommend reading them one after another. The best way to enjoy them is the way one optimizes the enjoyment of a cache of chocolate Easter Eggs: consume them at intervals long enough so that each one seems fresh and new.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews827 followers
October 16, 2018
“How strangely we are blinded by the surfaces of things.”

What is a diamond? A lump of ordinary coal that took pressure exceptionally well. Castillar Lupe dy Cazaril is your diamond in this story. And please do not call him broken, there is nothing broken about the diamond, even before it is cut to gain the proper shine and brilliance.

The Curse of Chalion is a story told from the margins of a great power play. You know all these books sporting princes and princesses fighting for or defending their heritage, the tales that take you right there to the very heart of what is happening and let you experience the heat of events through the eyes and hearts, and souls of the high and lofty? This is not one these books. The tide of the tale takes us in, but we follow its erratic swirls observing them from the point of view of a seemingly unimportant shell snatched from the shore. The narrator is merely a faithful companion to the main players. Furthermore, the story, as all good stories should, unfolds in both directions, into the future and into the past - not retrospectively, but in a way that allows the reader to make sense of seemingly unimportant events or to join them into a meaningful sequence.

“Sec’t’y-tutor, One ea. Gift from Grandmama. Aged thirty-five. Badly damaged in shipping”.

In spite of his lowly status, Caz is the main pillar of the story. In fact, he bears the weight of the whole book on his weary shoulders. I was genuinely surprised how this middle-aged man was able to hook me into his narrative. Ex-soldier turned secretary whose main ambition was to find a quiet corner where high life would not bother him anymore does not sound terribly exciting, does it? And yet, this steadfast and principled, rather introvert person, swept into the drama shows that the smallest piece of rock can start a huge avalanche and be a crucial agent of momentous change. Caz is not a mere instrument, an accidental tool or a passive witness, he reaches out into the thickest of the forces at play to grasp and to master what is happening. This ownership is rooted in the free will of a stellar character:

“Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men always have a choice - if not whether, then how, they may endure.”

Caz, whose body has been mutilated but his spirit is not broken, and at times it soars so high that hardly any other character in the book can equal these heights, endures without becoming a pompous martyr.

The motif I found the most profound in the whole book is the invitation to reconsider our own personal paths - when we a arrive at some point in our lives we can always ask ourselves: was it by accident, by pure chance or was there some design, some pattern to it? If so, where and when has it begun? Was I a conscious and willing element or just a grain of sand caught in the turning gyres? From this vantage point, Caz’s journey is simply incredible and wonderfully told.

In addition to lovely prose, Ms Bujold created a cohort of engaging characters. The members of the ruling House of Chalion, including its youngest scions, the siblings Royesse Iselle and Royse Teidez, two focal points of the intrigue, the courtiers, the servants, even the animals and the divine beings, form an amazing assortment of tropes and figures.

“The god’s most savage curses come to us as answers to our own prayers. Prayer is a dangerous business. I think it should be outlawed.”

Undoubtedly, the way Ms Bujold approached the divine and supernatural is one of the strongest points of the book. She tackled this theme at least as skilfully as Robert Jackson Bennett in his Divine Cities and much, much better than the (unjustifiably, if you ask me) acclaimed Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell (although Saint's Blood is still ahead of me, so perhaps I'm in for a pleasant surprise).

The whole idea of a curse, central to the whole plot was fiendishly clever because it rendered evil characters with more than a two-dimensional perspective, even though the majority of what happens is quite easy to surmise in advance.

On the (relative) cons side, the pacing is slow and filled with intrigue rather than action (please note, it was not an issue for me, I couldn't put the book down) and the romantic subplot is entirely unromantic (and not because of the age difference, but due to a total lack of chemistry).

I have found in Bujold everything I have been looking for and even more than I asked, and I will definitely be continuing the series and reading her other novels.

--
Also in the series:

2. Paladin of Souls ★★★★★
3. The Hallowed Hunt ★★★☆☆
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
February 10, 2017
The first time I read this, I was torn between my respect for Bujold and the slow burning plot of this first fantasy I had ever read by her. It didn't hurt that it was nominated for the Hugo, as she had been nominated over and over, winning several for her classic SF series, but I was like, "What? Fantasy? But she's so excellent with SF, why switch?" And then when I started reading it, there were none of the fast-paced elements or larger than life characters that I expected.

In fact, other than the fact that Cazaril was a broken man like Miles, he was pretty much Miles's opposite. Steadfast, principled, not attention seeking, reflective, Cazaril is the definition of Loyalty To Another, self-effacing willing to sacrifice himself for a much greater good.

The house of Chalion is under a curse, after all, and even after Noble Cazaril's capture and having been turned into a slave, his subsequent escape, and reinsertion into his natural household, he's still a conflicted and broken man in body and in spirit. All he really has to hope for is supporting his liege-woman.

This is NOT an action fantasy. Indeed, it's nearly spiritual in all the divine revelations. There isn't much magic, but don't worry, the true delight is in the messes that the Five Gods make of the world. The Bastard's death magic is particularly harrowing, and it happens to have the largest role and plot significance in the novel.

The other fantastically creative part of this novel is it's devotion to characterization. Bujold has always been a master at this, and while this particular novel seems to be a large departure from what we have known, we get through it feeling as if every character is as real as our own loved ones, we handle and are horrified by all the political intrigues and machinations, doing our absolute and not-quite-sufficient best.

I feel a lot of sympathetic love for Cazaril and the characters that he loves. Being broken is not the end. It's difficult and painful and horrible, but even in his darkest despair, he still managed to keep being wise, even in his (several) self-sacrifices?

How many main characters can you say that about? That the plot wasn't driven by a main character's stupidity? Exactly. This is SUBVERSION OF THE FANTASY TROPE. :) lol

This is a methodical and expertly-paced fantasy, but don't expect it to be flying. It's very careful.

But... the rewards are truly awesome. :)
Profile Image for carol..
1,535 reviews7,871 followers
January 5, 2012
Really three and a half stars. A slow start for me, but sometimes good stories take a while to build, and by the end, I couldn't put it down.

There is an interesting mix of characters, somewhat archetypical but done well enough that they developed uniqueness. A feudal system, a failing monarch, an unscrupulous chancellor, a strong-minded but elderly female ruler, young heirs running wild, but all with twists that give them individuality. I do appreciate the hero, Cazaril, being developed more along an anti-hero line. Not because he is ethically questionable--far from it--but because he is a physical wreck. As he regains his footing, he undergoes some spiritual challenges as well. Bujold thankfully avoids the traps of failing to have critical information shared between characters, so while Caz undergoes spiritual struggles, he discovers people to help him find his path. I also greatly appreciated Iselle, the young female royal being developed and individualized into a well-rounded, thoughtful person, almost the exact opposite of her brother.

There are a few fantastical elements that are well placed, making it an epic fantasy filled with divine miracles more than magical ones. I enjoyed the assured way Bujold handles language and development, and appreciated the balance between reflection and action. If the plot wasn't altogether a surprise, it was well done, and a pleasant journey along the way.
Profile Image for Kay.
197 reviews362 followers
March 6, 2016
It's hard reviewing books that I really like, especially when I don’t really have a systemic way to determine whether or not a book deserves a five star rating (i.e., the I-want-to-sing-and-gush rating).

So, I thought, what the hey. Let me start this review from the point in time when I first realized that this book was a WIN. And this particular review that was written by a mind that was blown starts out with a sob story:

Last week one morning, I woke up with my face feeling stuffed and itchy, eyes watering, and my temperature vacillating between slightly hot and feverish. I called in sick and slept most of the morning away only to wake up with a splitting headache. Feeling physically miserable but bored, I picked up The Curse of Chalion in hopes that I could make the time fly by. I read one page, then fifty, and before I knew it, it was almost 10 PM and I was closing the book, my headache and fever forgotten for the duration of my reading.

Curse the common cold! But a thousand blessings for books like these that make me un-feel discomfort. Pharmaceutical companies should figure out some way to encapsulate books into medical cure-all pills. And any book that makes me think such random thoughts is served a fresh and oh-so-diet-crushing dessert of five golden stars from me:



I will abstain from providing a synopsis (the one I wrote mirrored the book description, anyway). Instead, let me serve the main course first and go into what made this book so amazing: Cazaril .

First, though, let me make an important disclaimer: As smacked in the face we are with heroes of great deeds and daring, some may not find Cazaril to be very memorable. And those who don’t may not enjoy this book as much as I have. No hard feelings if you're missing out on one very layered, very charming character in fantasy.

After all, though he is a hero, Cazaril's not like an honor-stiffened Ned Stark or a badass Roland Deschain or even a wise and powerful Gandalf. There is no noticeable otherworldly aura of power and wisdom about him . Actually, he's quite stunningly human, burdened with human fear and doubt and weaknesses.

It's easy to mistake Cazaril for an old man when we first meet him on the road, dressed and behaving like a beggar, body broken down by great physical injuries and susceptible to his own emotions. We see glimpses of wit and intelligence, but it's quickly overrun by shame, uncertainty, and fear. It's hard to read about the very human heroes like Cazaril because, well, do we want to feel embarrassed for our hero when he can barely stoop down to pick up a coin dropped in the mud? I think not.

Don’t get me wrong—Cazaril has his share of “more-than-normal” abilities. But those aren't his end-game skills, so to say, or what he's really known for. Rather, he uses those skills to gain confidence in his own abilities, believe in his own reasoning, and dig up the courage that he buried long ago. Basically, to become a stronger and better person than he was before, internally and externally.

And the author makes sure we're intimate with Cazaril's development. She drags us along with him, step by painful step. I personally enjoyed the journey because there is change and growth. We see Cazaril slowly start to anchor himself in the tumultuous sea of court politics and divine curses. Other characters (and we) slowly start to depend on Cazaril's inner strength. Quite a shift in dynamic, considering how powerless Cazaril was in the beginning of the book.

On top of excellent character development, the political intrigue that drives events into place is stunningly well written. The intrigue isn’t too complex (for an example of intense behind-the-curtain wheeling and dealing, see Kushiel’s Dart and A Game of Thrones), but it’s well written and, more importantly, is intricately connected with the Curse of Chalion. Don’t be dismayed when you realize you’re a third into the book and there’s no mention of any curse. Trust me. It’s there, it’s real, and Cazaril will become very, er, intimately involved with trying to break it.

It’s fascinating and kind of grotesque stuff.

I realize this review is rambling, so I’ll just pull the plug there.

But for any fantasy aficionado, THE CURSE OF CHALION will be a fantastic read with solid world building, a very sincere religious structure, and, of course, an incredibly multi layered character. Plus, the writing is lovely, and Lois Bujold's sharp wit and irony shines through memorable passages.

Overall, 5.0 stars and very highly recommended!
Profile Image for Overhaul.
270 reviews607 followers
July 5, 2022
Antes de nada agradecer a nuestro estimado amigo y personalmente uno de mis maestros que me llevan por el buen camino lector lo que viene siendo de joya en joya. Muchas gracias, estimado Xabi1990.

Y eso que está saga no es Vorkosigan, su obra maestra de CF, pero ya veis. Una excelente autora.

Después de dos años encadenado a un remo en una galera roknari, Lupe de Cazaril, noble de sangre, regresa a su casa en Chalion como un hombre humilde y anónimo. Marcado por el látigo y las penurias.

Sin tierras, con los honores adquiridos en batalla y los viejos rencores casi olvidados, ahora solo aspira a servir en el mismo castillo en el que una vez fue paje. Sin embargo, los dioses de Chalion parecen haberle reservado otro destino. Pronto se verá implicado en las intrigas, la corrupción y las oscuras tramas de la corte.

A fin de proteger a la familia real deberá superar sus propios temores y sacrificarlo todo, hasta su vida, con tal de eludir de una vez por todas el mortífero legado de los dioses que va unido a la corona de Chalion. Pero.. ¿Cuántas veces puede dar un hombre su vida?

"La maldición de Chalion" se trata de la segunda novela de fantasía escrita por Lois McMaster Bujold. Conocida principalmente por su épica saga de CF, Miles Vorkosigan, poco ha incursionado en la fantasía. Pero como en la CF lo que logra es asombroso. Que bien escribe.

La maldición de Chalion es una mágica historia clásica contada con elegancia y mucho estilo. Buen ritmo en una trama que engancha.

Cazaril es un hombre destrozado. Un antiguo cortesano y soldado de Chalion, Cazaril fue traicionado hace años y convertido en esclavo en una galera enemiga. Soportó torturas y pesares pero ahora es libre. No ansia nada más que volver a la casa de una viuda donde sirvió como paje en su juventud. Aceptará cualquier trabajo, incluso en la cocina. Sólo quiere paz. Alejarse de todo.

Los dioses, sin embargo, no permitirán que se desvanezca en la oscuridad. Recibido con toda atención, alimentado y vestido pasará a ser nombrado secretario de Royesse Iselle, la hija de Provincara que es a su vez la hermana del próximo gobernante de Chalion. Este trabajo lo llevará a donde no quiere, la corte de Chalion en la ciudad de Cardegoss. Las personas que lo traicionaron después de su larga caída están en posiciones de poder, con el gobernante actual bailando en sus manos. Cazaril no espera tener que lidiar con esta gente. Pero, una vez más su destino está sellado.

Lo que no sabe es que un mal aún mayor que aquellos que le traicionaron se cierne sobre la familia real. Una oscura y cruel sombra rodea no solo a la familia, sino a cualquiera que entre en su círculo. Cazaril debe intentar descubrir qué puede hacer para destruir esta plaga.

Obligado a recurrir a algunas de las magias más viles y prohibidas para tratar de resolver el problema. Si bien funciona a corto plazo, Cazril descubre que esto lo pone en el camino del destino, pues como siempre se trata se una herramienta de los Cinco Dioses, con un destino desconocido en el que no habrá paz.

Que escenas, que historia y vaya manera de narrarlas. Desde los personajes, el mundo y el reino. Pasando por la magia que encontramos recorriendo sus páginas.

Si te gusta sentarte a leer una gran historia de fantasía, y que esté llena de acción 100% esta puede no ser la historia para ti. Se habla más de guerra que lo que es la propia batalla real. Se basa más en las intrigas políticas, historias, familias y poder además de muchas traiciones. Si te gustan las historias con personajes que no olvidarás, un mundo interesante y con mucho que explorar y explotar. Con magia bastante interesante, intrigas y poder. Y una trama que avanza sin parar. Si te gusta la alta fantasia de calidad, analizando todos y cada uno de los aspectos o los detalles de la historia porque a medida que lees te fascina y engancha. Este es vuestro libro. Bienvenidos.

Me encantaron los personajes que Bujold nos trae en esta historia. Muchos de ellos captaron mi atención directamente en el momento en el que fueron presentados. Algo nada fácil.

Cazaril demuestra que su fuerza está en su gran ingenio, su tiempo en cautiverio le pasó factura. Tiene muchas dolencias. A pesar de que podemos ver pelear a Caz algunas veces, él prefiere andarse con rodeos y es muy bueno en eso. Nada de cobardía, y sus palabras afilan su espada para terminar una batalla. Personaje muy trabajado y fascinante. No puedo decir muchos personajes cuya historia y personalidad me cautiven e impresionen como Cazaril.

Lois McMaster Bujold muestra una magistral capacidad de caracterización con un elenco de personajes únicos, bastante trabajados y con personalidades y motivaciones interesantes.

Un sentido del humor suave, diálogos agiles y hasta un romance. Tenemos personajes que cumplen su función o sólo aportan su punto de vista para el progreso de la trama.

Construcción de mundo soberbia. De 10. No me sorprenderá en absoluto que este no se pueda ni comparar con su obra maestra, Vorkosigan. Ha creado un mundo vívido y detallado lleno de intrigantes complicaciones, líneas de sucesión, su gente, sus tierras y una bien llevada política. Tenemos desde provincias disidentes, a vecinos que tienen que lidiar con sus propios problemas con una combinación de aliados y enemigos de Chalion que juegan una partida muy peligrosa con una sombra que acecha sobre todos ellos.

Sin embargo, donde Bujold realmente debería ser elogiada es en su uso de la religión. Este mundo tiene cinco dioses:

La Madre, El Padre, La Hermana y El Hermano y El Bastardo, algunos se los países no creen en el Bastardo. Cuando alguien muere, parte del funeral es tener un representante de cada dios que venga al funeral. Esta curiosa mitología se convierte en una parte integral de la historia y el primer indicio de que Cazaril tendrá mucho más con lo que lidiar de lo que planeó.

Bujold crea un intrigante sistema religioso que es la parte más central de la trama.

Una visión de la condición humana. A través se una fantasía que tiene mucho que decir con voz calmada pero autoritaria y clara. Este libro es un diez y no tengo más que decir salvo que si no lo habéis leído a esta autora, no sé qué estáis haciendo con vuestras vidas lectoras.

Añadir que funciona bastante, bastante bien como independiente. Ideas frescas, con una prosa muy efectiva sin ser simple, ágil y con cada elemento que va hilando y construyendo un final satisfactorio para bien o mal. Seguiré, sin duda. Antes toca Vorkosigan.

¡LEED A BUJOLD!
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews458 followers
September 8, 2013
Fantasy books these days are often rough. They swear, they rape, they mutilate and pillage. They are dark or grimdark or "realistic". I like this trend a lot, but once in a while there comes a book that is none of that.

Enter "The Curse of the Chalion". This book is polite. It's quiet and beautiful, perhaps sophisticated sometimes. It tells a great story and has a very relatable and likeable main protagonist.

Cazaril, our main character and only view point perspective, is 35. In the course of the story he turns 36, which is my age right now, so I can perfectly relate to him.
It's a pleasure to read about his kindness, his intelligence and humility.
Kudos to the author, who created a very believeable character. Especially the way she approaches Cazaril's thoughts regarding falling in love with a younger woman and wheter it is appropriate or not to do so are very relateable.

But the great way of characterization doesn't stop with Cazaril. All the other charcters are beautifully drawn as well and it's a joy to read about them.

Apart from the characters the world-building is very interesting, especially the very detailed religious system.
As you might have already guessed, this one is no blockbuster action spectacle, but merely a character driven tale of religion, political manouvers and selfless sacrifice.

Delving into the world of Chalion is certainly not a curse, it's a blessing for your soul.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,814 followers
October 13, 2011
I am myself surprised at how much I liked this book. Generally I prefer books that are plot driven. Now and then however a wonderful book comes along built on the characters within.This is definitely a character driven story.

There is about this story (much of the way) a melancholy feel of the inevitable doomed hero moving inexorably toward his fate... to go on here about whether said hero meets said fate and so on would constitute (of course) THE spoiler of all spoilers. Let me say however that I was drawn into Lupe dy Cazaril's saga from the first words of the book and never lost interest.

There are many reasons why readers are interested in books of any genre, fantasy books are no different. This is a complete world that we get acquainted with through story-telling. No long background speeches about how the world works, it's government etc. it all fits together as we go. The religion in the book is well done (and I'm a Christian. Allowing for the fact that this is a story, it to is fairly interesting). I found interest in the way it (and the magic system here is tied in to the religion and the gods involved.) effected the characters. The overarching sadness here, much of it from the weakness of the story's gods and the way things had to be worked out was very effective.

This was for me a very pleasing book and an enjoyable experience, and I plan to read the sequel(s). Highly recommended. One of my slightly unusual 5 stars.

Profile Image for Choko.
1,199 reviews2,585 followers
December 14, 2017
*** 4.44 ***

A buddy read with my friends at Fantasy Buddy Reads group! Because we love all fantasy, and the well written ones even more!!!


"...“In mysticism, knowledge cannot be separated from a certain way of life which becomes its living manifestation. To acquire mystical knowledge means to undergo a transformation; one could even say that the knowledge is the transformation. Scientific knowledge, on the other hand, can often stay abstract and theoretical. Thus most of today’s physicists do not seem to realize the philosophical, cultural and spiritual implications of their theories.” ..."

This was not only good, but so very engaging, I have not been able to think about much more than the story fro the last three days:) Which is the biggest compliment I can give a book. I love this author, but I only knew her from her more popular sci-fi works. I had no idea how she will fit her stile to Fantasy and I am very happy to report, LMB does not disappoint!!!

"...“Any man can be kind when he is comfortable. I'd always thought kindness a trivial virtue therefore. But when we were hungry, thirsty, sick, frightened, with our deaths shouting at us, in the heart of horror, you were still as unfailingly courteous as a gentleman at his ease before his own hearth.'

'Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice - if not whether, then how they may endure.'.” ..."


In this world, as in ours, people are as imperfect, corrupt, and hungry for power as we are all aware how our society shapes us. There are also those who still hold on to the more humane values and virtues and balance out the failings of our kind. One of those good ones is our MC, Lord Lupe dy Cazaril, who has been beaten down by torture and defeat, betrayal and faithlessness, and despite all of that, he still hangs on to his honor and desire to be the best he could be. Yes, he is scared and skittish, trying to keep his head down and lay low, but his innate decency is bursting to come out, no matter how under the radar he wants to stay. In his new position as the secretary to a young noble woman, he rediscovers himself, as well as finds a way to educate her, so her natural passion for justice and doing the right thing do not get lost nor tangled in with her impulsiveness and immaturity. On the way to getting her ready for her more prominent role in the court, he becomes god-touched and is involved in finding a way to lift a curse from the House of Chalion. You have to read it in order to discover more about the curse and how successful or not he is in his noble pursuits.

"...“You cannot outguess the gods. Hold to virtue—if you can identify it—and trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. And that the talents given to you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent to you. Not even your life.” ..."

This was a truly thoughtful and delightful read, written with the seamless artistry of a very talented author and is a must read for all the fans of the genre!!! I am looking forward to the next installment in the series!!!

Now I wish you all Happy Reading and may you always find what you need in the pages of a good Book!!!
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews867 followers
December 21, 2021
“Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice—if not whether, then how, they may endure.”

Book Review: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold | The BiblioSanctum

I was slow to find Lois McMaster Bujold's work, but I have been making up for it during the past year. Her novel, The Curse of Chalion , showcases wonderful storytelling built around the return of a noble, Cazaril, who had been betrayed and sold into slavery. Cazaril is appointed to tutor and protect Isell, who is second in line for the Chalion throne. In that role, he faces those who had betrayed him many years earlier. The Curse of Chalion features great storytelling along with immersive world-building. I will be reading more. 4.5 stars

“You may have slandered an honest man. Or you may have struck a blow for justice. I don't know. The point is... neither do you.”
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books431 followers
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February 6, 2022
“Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice – if not whether, then how, they may endure.”

So What’s It About?

“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, as the secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule.

It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it will ultimately lead him to the place he fears most, the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies, who once placed him in chains, now occupy lofty positions. In addition to the traitorous intrigues of villains, Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle, are faced with a sinister curse that hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. 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."


What I Thought

It’s always a magical experience when you’re reading a book that you just know is bound to be a new favorite. For the first quarter or so of The Curse of Chalion I wasn’t sold, but right around that quarter -way mark I started to fall in love. This is a dense, rich and deeply thoughtful epic fantasy that I think is a perfect suggestion for anyone looking for the same kind of incredibly emotional and character-driven work that Robin Hobb does.

Just as I love Fitz dearly I also love Cazaril – he is a quiet, intelligent and subtly wry man who is struggling deeply with PTSD from his enslavement. His struggle with his experiences is very well written, but overall what I love about Caz is that he’s simply an imperfect man struggling against the weight of immense suffering to do good and help the people he cares about. I REALLY think he and Fitz need to start a support group.

The beautiful character work extends to nearly every character in the story; even small side characters are well drawn and I came to have strong opinions about nearly everyone in the story. Dondo Dy Jironal is loathsome in the extreme, Iselle is a delight, and Ista (the protagonist of the next book) is revealed to have a great depth of character.

I will say that it took me a while to feel the emotional connection between Caz, Iselle and Betriz, and that I think the story would have been even stronger if there had been more of them growing to know each other and bonding. Caz’s massive sacrifice for Iselle would have meant even more than it did if I had felt more strongly about their relationship. In addition, the romance with Betriz did absolutely nothing for me. There was very sparse interaction between the two of them alone and none of it made me feel that they were an especially interesting or meaningful couple.

I love the emphasis on religion on fate in The Curse of Chalion – blessings and curses, divine intervention and the will of the gods all play a significant role in the unfolding of the plot. My favorite part of the story’s magic was the nature of the curse that Caz must grapple with. The despicable Dondo Dy Jironal’s fate was fascinating and the body horror involved was an especially gruesome touch.

I will say that the revelation that Bergon was a slave along with Caz was something of a Dickensian coincidence and, while I can understand its inclusion based on the book’s theme of fate and divine intervention, I also think that the story could have stood just fine without and the plot would have felt stronger to me. My only other real complaint is that I did feel somewhat like Caz’s PTSD was magically healed at the end of the book after seeing the Lady. I have conflicting feelings about this – on one hand Cazaril deserves the happiest of happy endings, but on the other I would have appreciated seeing him learn to find happiness through his suffering without divine intervention.

I think in many regards this book’s treatment of female characters can be likened to Robin Hobb’s treatment in the Fitz books too. There is a male protagonist, yes, and there is a great deal of female suffering in this story, but Caz is surrounded by well-written women who resist their fates. One example is Ista, who everyone dismisses as a madwoman and yet knows the reality of the curse better than anyone. I also loved Iselle, who grows from a naive young girl into a decisive woman who fights for her autonomy and her right to make decisions for herself, comes up with the idea to marry Bergon and resists Dondo’s marriage at every turn. She’s clever and observant and I really loved her. Even Sara, a very minor character whose husband allowed her to be raped repeatedly, gets a peaceful ending and the thoughtful detail that she refused to mourn her husband’s death.

In sum, this is a thoughtful, wonderfully-characterized epic fantasy with one of my favorite protagonists ever. I’m greatly looking forward to reading about Ista in the next book too!
Profile Image for Jake Bishop.
280 reviews332 followers
October 29, 2022
The Curse of Chalion is another stand alone fantasy book, and it manages to be a methodical, character driven story, with some of the tightest plotting I have seen in a fantasy novel. Which I was not expecting.

This is a single PoV story, following the perspective of Cazaril, who is a worn down soldier returning from years of misfortune. He ends up playing an important role in larger political struggles in the realm of Chalion. I see this author compared to Robin Hobb a lot, and I think the comparison's are fair. The main things I would say that make it have a similar feel other than both of them being good, is that the setting and the court has kind of a similar feel. They both have realistic displays of characters, human psychology, and problems, while also still having characters you can absolutely root for. And for both a lot of the conflict is driven by political conflict.

I think this feels a lot more like Farseer than it does like Liveship, or maybe the most like Tawny Man, specifically the first 2 Tawny Man books.

One subtle thing that I think makes them feel similar. is that both series have 1 protagonist, but in both cases it is not who would be the typical protagonist. In this story, most authors would make Iselle(the princess in her late teens) the protagonist, and Cazaril would be a bunch of people's favorite supporting character. Bujold just made Caz the protagonist. Similarly from histories perspective Fitz is a side character, who kinda quietly has a huge impact on events.

Now for some key differences.
The main one is that Hobb is quite indulgent in her plots. People who dislike her books often say they should be shorter. And they clearly could be shorter, there are scenes you could remove that would not cause plot issues. I tend to really like those scenes that could be removed, but the story would remain functional.

I do not feel The Curse of Chalion could be shorter. I think literally every scene is actually important to functionally telling the story. I actually found it pretty astonishing that the conflict of this novel is so driven by who the characters are, while also having a plot that is so tightly created. I do not know how much Bujold planned in advance while writing this, but it is a combination of strengths in a work of fiction that I don't think I have ever seen.

Another major difference is that religion played a larger role in this novel than it did in Realm of the Elderlings. In RotE there are a couple characters whose religion is really important to them, but in this that is the main character. This is a fantasy world where whether the gods are real is not a question. It is a fact. I think this theme was explored really well, but will leave you on that.

And lastly I think this novel is more focused on the protagonist when compared to Hobb. By the end of the novel I thought the entire cast was well realized, but I do just think Hobb was better at writing her supporting cast. Which isn't really a knock on Bujold, because I think Hobb is better than everyone at that. She is my favorite writer by a pretty large margin.

This book took a little bit to really get going, with the first 80 or so being my least favorite section. Which is to say, I still liked the start quite a bit, because Caz is in my opinion a really compelling protagonist. However this book did the thing where it just kept getting better. I was expecting well realized characters, and good writing, but I was not expecting the plotting to be as good as it was in this novel. I literally do not think you could cut a scene from this novel. There are so many scenes that when you read them you may think it was only doing one thing. Either establishing something about character or setting, but they all somehow end up being relevant to the story.

The key thing here, is that it doesn't do this at the expense of setting, or character or theme. The character especially were really good. The main ones we follow are both very interesting, unique, felt human, and were just really likeable. This isn't a First Law or grimdark situation where Cazaril is a bad person, who I cheered for anyway. Cazaril clearly has a strong moral code, and it is very important to him. He just also manages to feel human, while having depth, and being interesting. The side cast didn't quite instantly pop of the page, or stand out to the same degree. What made it enjoyable, was that as I went I kept finding out more and more about the people, and they kept feeling more and more real, and being more and more interesting.

Overall, if you want a character driven, low action fantasy stand alone, and also especially if you are somebody who tends to think lots of fantasy books are too long(unlike me), than I cannot recommend this enough. The only thing stopping this from being an all time favorite is that it took a while for me to feel like I knew some of the side characters, which made the first quarter clearly my least favorite of the novel. Although it was still good.

9.2/10
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
995 reviews505 followers
October 8, 2018
Muy, muy bueno. Me ha gustado mucho conocer la pluma de esta escritora y su mundo. Sin duda, una gran aventura.

PD: Muchas gracias Fonch por acompañarme en este viaje.
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews314 followers
July 11, 2014
3.5 stars.

This is a well-written story filled with politics, adventures, blessings and magic. The main plot was straightforward and enjoyable although the prominence of gods and curses undermined the importance of the characters while making the political machinations seem somewhat trivial. The real strength of this book was in it's protagonist Cazaril. A decorated soldier, his betrayal and imprisonment left him a shattered husk at the beginning of this novel. More than a story of war and politics or even of gods and curses this is the story of one man trying to put his life back together.

At the start of this book Cazaril is a broken man, trudging alone down the road he is scorned by passers-by. When he arrives at the home of his former employer he reveals the depth of his suffering and is given a second chance. Cazaril drives the plot forward through his attempts to dispel a curse (apparently Scooby-doo was busy) and save a princess (so was Mario). However for me the real struggle in this novel was Cazaril's attempts to mend his shattered psyche while fighting his feelings for the woman he loves.

At times however Cazaril lost my interest and when this happened I lost interest in the story as a whole. His pondering about the spirituality of life as a galley-slave seemed forced and sometimes preachy. His willingness to allow the men who betrayed him to suffering and death to escape justice until the plot forced him into a confrontation was disappointing as well. His lack of desire for revenge separated him from other protagonists in recent fantasy i.e. Monza in Bested Served Cold, Jorg in the Broken crown trilogy. While I guess I should regard his turning the other cheek as admirable his passivity coupled with his preaching made him a frustrating hero to root for at times.

With Cazaril as the sole POV character and so much of the story about his personal struggles none of the other characters really jumped off the page at me. Iselle seemed a rehash of other intelligent, strong-willed, politically aware princesses in fantasy. (Elayne in WOT, Lyrna in Blood Song, Sidonie in Kushiels, Peach in...no wait scratch that one). Most of whom I liked better than Iselle. Betriz is a likeable romance option for Cazaril but I never really felt that she was a strong character on her own merits. The arch-villain Dy Jironal was a standard evil chancellor. A scheming, nepotistic politician motivated by greed and ambition. The hints in the story that he wasn't always so bad and that the curse turned his own good qualities against him felt like a waste of a great opportunity. He could have been given depth and shown as a good man who was corrupted into making bad decisions (similar to Logain in Dragonage) but instead the opportunity to give him some redeeming qualities was passed up and he remained a 2-D villain.

The story itself wasn't particularly engaging. It featured a pre-occupation with court intrigue which has never really interested me. The wider reaching politics were pretty predictable while the plot was often strung together by divine intervention and mysterious curses. I also felt that the prominence of god's in this story, and their frequent interventions made the characters decisions and actions seem unimportant. The frequent use of god's as plot-points isn't my preferred type of story, although for those who like this kind of high fantasy this plot will surely be enjoyable as it was handled well here.

I thought the world-building was one of this book's biggest strengths. The fact that the people of the country worship the 'bastard' a god of death was a nice twist as this sort of worship is usually reserved for evil foreigners/invaders in fantasy. The endemic warfare, often glossed over or ignored in fantasy, was also well done and it served to make the world more realistic. In just 1 book the author created a complex and intriguing world history reminiscent of the Iberian peninsula in the middle ages, while the story of 'The Golden General' was an especially interesting piece of lore .

Although the frequent Deus Ex Machinima's caused by the god's interventions and lack of depth in secondary characters made it hard for me to really get into this one, overall I still found this to be an enjoyable story with a good setting and an interesting main character.

Profile Image for Emma.
2,435 reviews828 followers
March 30, 2018
This is top notch quality fantasy. It has politics, scheming, a well defined system of gods and religion, well developed characters who all develop in leaps and bounds through the story. The story is a slow burner, but it’s so good you won’t care. It reminds me a little of the Dagger and Coin series (which is exceptional and one of my favourite fantasy series) and in terms of pacing, Robin Hobb, a definite contender for my favourite fantasy author). I hope the rest of the series lives up to its first novel. This book makes you think about our fates in the world, how life is arranged, how events and lives intertwine and how maybe we are all part of a greater plan than we can know.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews782 followers
March 19, 2016
“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” *

That is Lois McMaster Bujold effortlessly describing what I often feel about excellent writing but lack the skill to articulate. What I like best about starting a Bujold book is that feeling of homecoming. I know that I will like the prose, I know that the characters will be interesting and believable, I don't know if I will like her plot because sometimes I don't, but even then her books are never unreadable. So a Bujold book is always a safe purchase.

This not being a Vorkosigan book it took me a while to settle in, to get used to the unfamiliar world, people, and situation. However, there is never a problem of initial inaccessibility, Ms. Bujold's clean, smooth witty prose with a touch of Jack Vance-esque floweriness always keep me afloat.

For a change, the book is focused on a single character's POV, instead of the currently in vogue numerous multi-protagonists POV setup which often causes a book to feel fragmented and can play hell with continuity. Another Bujold trademark is unconventional protagonists, she tends to stay away from the fearsomely skilled and well endowed sexy heroic type. Cazaril, the protagonist of this book is a somewhat meek and subservient sympathetic middle age scholarly type with little or no fighting skills and a tendency to cower under quilts in extreme fear. However, when the chips are down he really shines.

I generally read more sf than fantasy as I find it difficult to suspend disbelief with a lot of the magical shenanigan that goes on in a lot of fantasy books. All that SHAZAM! some poor dude turns into a fruit bat business is not for me. So I love how discrete magic is in this book. It takes a lot of effort and the result is unpredictable. This being a Bujold book an element of romance is to be expected. Fortunately, she is too mature, intelligent, and classy to write endlessly about lovers staring into each others' eyes and other ghastly StephanieMeyerisms.

My only gripe with this book concerns the pacing of the first third which seems overly leisurely for my taste. The book ambles along amiably for a hundred or so pages with no sign of the ass kickage that follows later on in the book. Also, I am not a fan of fictional politics and court intrigue stories, so this minor aspect of the book is not so appealing to me. I do wonder why the author felt the need to invent terms for royalty like royesse, royina, royse, and royale with cheese (OK, not that last one which is a Dutch burger).

So, all in all, a very good book with a beating heart, Bujold's attention to details and craftsmanship is as evident as ever. I am definitely going to read the Hugo/Nebula award-winning sequel Paladin of Souls.

....

* Back to that “I need words that mean..." quote.
I just want to mention that it is not highlighted in my Kindle edition of this book. It's funny the sort of crap that people do highlight on Kindle books. For non-Kindle users, I should explain that the highlight is a feature where users highlight their favorite sentences or passages of books and these are upload into the "cloud" at Amazon after the same passages have been highlighted by a few users the highlight appear on the e-book edition as "popular highlight". So far I find this to be a useless feature which I should turn off but don't because my curiosity always gets the best of me.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews166 followers
February 25, 2023
“Well, what is a blessing but a curse from another point of view?”
I’ve been reading fantasy for a long time, however The Curse of Chalion revealed a new variation of the genre for me, which I loved. Here we don’t get to know a fantastical world, action-packed adventure with strange and out of our experience characters. It reminded me of a medieval world with power struggles not unheard of, but at the same time ultimately unique. It’s profound in that it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, and in doing so it achieves much more than we could expect.

The Curse of Chalion is the story of a man beaten by war and betrayals, vicissitudes of life. Cazaril endured and comes out of it humbled, though is ultimately redeemed through his honor and courage. We get to know him as he returns after 17 years away, poor and hopeless. Cazaril isn’t an accessible and clean-cut hero, but gradually he carried the story with ease and ended conquering that status in my eyes.
“Any man can be kind when he is comfortable. I'd always thought kindness a trivial virtue therefore. But when we were hungry, thirsty, sick, frightened, with our deaths shouting at us, in the heart of horror, you were still as unfailingly courteous as a gentleman at his ease before his own hearth.'
'Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice - if not whether, then how they may endure.' (Bergon and Cazaril talking over the past)
As an unexpected challenge changes his life, he is thrown into the center of the power at court where he has to confront his old enemies. His talents and wisdom will assist but not avoid adversities.

Religion and magic play a fundamental part in Lois McMaster Bujold’s superb narrative, though not overwhelmingly, and poses a key question: in the end is life driven by fate or is there free will? How the gods relate to the mere mortals, grants a deeper meaning to the book.
“I have had another thought on such fates that denies neither gods nor man. Perhaps, instead of controlling every step, the gods have started a hundred or a thousand Cazarils and Umegats down this road, and only those arrive who choose to.”
The Curse of Chalion is not an action moved plot, but driven by people and their relationships. There is no sex, just a touch of romance. But don’t fear, it is never boring as the story moves gradually fitting together perfectly through Bujold's masterful writing.

Wonderful! You should experience it with your eyes (or ears) fully open so to appreciate and enjoy it thoroughly!
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
914 reviews405 followers
August 24, 2019
Apenas ocurren 3 o 4 cosas en todo el libro, pero están tan bien contadas y los personajes tienen tanta fuerza que lo único que se me ocurre decir sobre este libro es que debería de haber leído a Bujold mucho antes.

Es una trama típica ambientada en una fantasía medieval con maldiciones rondando y juegos de poder. No inventa nada nuevo y a muchos les parecerá aburrido. Pero si consigue llegarte no lo podrás soltar.
Profile Image for Gavin.
862 reviews392 followers
June 26, 2017
I've read Curse of Chalion twice over the years and loved it both times. It is a fantasy story with an original feel and with a truly unique main character. The story was not high on action but had plenty of intrigue and a dose of interesting magic and world building that resulted in it always being a compelling read.

The story followed Lord Lupe dy Cazaril. At his peak he was a courtier, castle-warder, and captain; but now he has just escaped for the oar benches of a slave galley and is a shadow of his former self. Cazaril turned to an old friend and landed a job as a secretary to her daughter. It seemed an easy position at first but soon Cazaril found himself caught up in the complicated politics of Chalion.

The story was very engaging and the best thing it had going for it was Cazaril himself. Caz was a super easy character to like and root for and was a different sort of fantasy hero.

All in all I loved this one!

Rating: 5 stars.

Audio Note: Lloyd James did a good job with the audio.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
February 7, 2017
This is exactly the sort of fantasy I love. Slow to build, but full of great ideas and fantastic world and character development. At times it reminded me a bit of Hobb's writing style (this is very high praise from me) and I really enjoyed being able to follow a character who was 35 rather than a typical 'farmboy' etc. (although we all know I love a good farmboy story too)

This book focuses around Cazeril, a man who has had one hell of a life. Cazeril is a war veteran at the age of just 35. He's fought for various people and at many different battle-sites. He's a thoroughly tired out man by the time we meet him travelling on the road to Chalion, but he's also a really mysterious and interesting character to try and work out.

What I loved about this story was the depth. Starting off with a well-hardened character means Bujold allows herself to go straight into the story and to develop that and the characters as she goes. We follow Cazeril along the road where he uncovers the remnants of Death magic, and he also meets all kind of people who are both good and bad and somewhere in-between. There are lots of excellent character development scenes and thoughts I felt very pertinent to the plot. Basically i think Bujold can certainly write.

Probably my favourite element besides the development in this book is quite a surprising thing (at least to me). I actually found myself really enjoying the political machinations we were seeing unfold. In this story Cazeril joins up to a house and starts to serve a rather powerful young lady. Whilst serving under her many of his secrets are exposed (whether he wants that or not) and he also discovers many secrets of others around him. He's a careful and clever character who has a whole load of crappy life situations to draw on for experience, and this makes him feel so much more authentic and solid as a character.

This is a slower book for sure, but I think it really does pay off and the second half of the story really got all fired up fast. I would definitely recommend this book and I can't wait to try out the next one in this series and hopefully I will love that one even more :) 4*s from me :)
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,205 followers
August 5, 2021
I'm doing the BookTube thing now! Find me at: The Obsessive Bookseller

[DNF Q&A Review] When trying to make a decision on whether or not to read something, it can often be much more helpful to look at the low star ratings than the high ones. To that end I’m going to be including more DNF reviews in my lineup. I have a Q&A format here that I adapted from Nikki at http://www.therewerebooksinvolved.com (with permission), and I think it’s a great way to discuss the book constructively. Here goes:

Did you really give Curse of Chalion a chance?

I went in pretty open-minded and even liked the first chapter or so, but once I started becoming dissatisfied, it became a practice of actively looking for reasons to justify calling a DNF. This is perhaps not fair to the book, but had it been anything other than a pick for a book club I run, I’d have just set it down as soon as it became clear I wasn’t digging it. I think I made it about 35%.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre?

Yes! Slow-burn, politically-driven fantasy novels rank among my favorites:

A Shadow in Summer (Long Price Quartet, #1) by Daniel Abraham Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1) by Brian McClellan Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1) by Robin Hobb Lion of Senet (Second Sons, #1) by Jennifer Fallon Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1) by Jacqueline Carey

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

My expectations were hopeful but not too terribly high. I remembered the author’s Sharing Knife (I only read the first one) as a relationship-heavy book with very relaxed and flowy writing. I expected much the same here, but was hoping the romance wouldn’t be quite so prominent (it wasn’t, but it still absorbed too much of the narration for my tastes). I’d also heard so many great things about her scifi Vorkosigan series that I was hoping she was consistently good all around.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

Ultimately, it came down to the childlike, irrational decisions made by the characters. For a novel that was supposed to be ALL about the characters and the politics, the characters came across every surface-level and their actions basic. The politics were equally simple. She lost my faith in her ability to give me something of substance early on and I didn’t find anything to convince me otherwise as I kept reading. None of the happenings in how these characters behaved was realistic to me, and in comparison to dozens of other fantasy novels with similar elements, this one came across very juvenile.

Is there anything you liked about the Curse of Chalion?

The character profiles at the beginning were fun, but they never evolved past just being just profiles. The first chapter was great. The writing was fluid. That’s about it.

Would you read anything else by the author?

I’m still holding out for Vorkosigan, but my enthusiasm has waned considerably. I’m definitely now at peace with not continuing with any of her fantasy works.

So you DNFed the book. Would you still recommend it?

That strongly depends on how well I can gage what someone wants out of a fantasy novel. If it’s a relaxing, easy read, this one might fit the bill. My personal tastes crave books with a lot of depth and dynamics these days, but I remember back when an easy-flowing fantasy book was just what the doctor ordered. So yes, to the right audience. Particularly those who enjoy romance novels but want something a little more robust. This author is a great hybrid of the two genres.

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com
Profile Image for Para (wanderer).
360 reviews194 followers
January 23, 2019
This is not the first time I have read this book. Not even the second. My best estimate would be about fourth or fifth – it’s simply one of those comfort reads I keep returning to again and again when I need a pick-me-up. The familiarity, the characters…it’s one of those books that never grow old and I feel I owe it at least a short review.

Any man can be kind when he is comfortable. I’d always thought kindness a trivial virtue, therefore. But when we were hungry, thirsty, sick, frightened, with our deaths shouting at us, in the heart of horror, you were still as unfailingly courteous as a gentleman at ease before his own hearth.

After years of war followed by months spent as a galley slave, Cazaril returns to Valenda, where he served as a page when he was a boy, now a broken man. Looking for a lowly position, he is instead appointed as a secretary to the young princess (or royesse) Iselle. Though the story slowly grows more epic in scope, concerning not just Cazaril’s past, but curses, gods, and the fate of the whole kingdom, it remains personal and character-focused throughout. The pacing is rather slow and languid, but I found that it fit the story rather well.

And Cazaril is one of the most likable characters I encountered in fantasy. He’s loyal, kind, level-headed, experienced, and no matter what life throws at him, he stays true to himself and never gives up. He’s also no longer young and struggles with various aches and pains regularly, which is somewhat unusual for a fantasy protagonist, but a welcome change. I admit I have a weakness for stories of characters who are recovering from some horrible ordeal (The Sparrow's present day storyline hit much similar notes), but even so, I found him impossible not to like and cheer for.

The setting is faintly Spanish-inspired, which is reflected in the titles and the names. There’s no real magic per se, but there are very real gods, including curses, blessings, and miracles related to them. And with gods and religion being one of the major themes, there’s a lot of deus ex machina and convenient coincidences. It didn’t bother me because it fit the concept well and didn’t seem out of place, but if you look for a potential deal-breakers, there you go.

Enjoyment: 5/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: fans of character-focused fantasy, those looking for uplifting books, books that are relatively low magic, standalone epic fantasy books, and/or older protagonists
Not recommended to: fans of fast-paced stories, those who hate deus ex machina, content warning: discussion of rape (nothing on-screen)

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,932 followers
June 18, 2020
***En español este libro lo publicó hace años la Factoría de ideas y lo dividió de manera TERRIBLE en dos volúmenes: 'Los cuervos de Zangre' y 'El legado de los Cinco Dioses'
Dado mi amor por la saga Vorkosigan, estaba deseando probar la pluma de Bujold en un libro de fantasía, y lo primero que tengo que decir es que me quedé de piedra al ver que los libros de Chalion están basados remotamente en la historia de Isabel la Católica (e incluso el mapa de estos reinos fantásticos es el mismo mapa de España dado la vuelta xD)
MUY LOCO ME PARECIÓ TODO ESTO.
Y me encantó.
Nuestro protagonista es un soldado que vuelve a su tierra natal tras años en las galeras, donde fue a vendido a traición. En Chalion se verá envuelto en las intrigas políticas que rodean a la joven Iselle (ISELLE) y la mano de los dioses guiarán su camino lo quiera él o no.
Y eso es este libro, las andanzas de Cazaril, un noble que ha perdido todo en la vida y cómo tras muchos sufrimientos va a ir reponiéndose y encontrándose de nuevo a sí mismo.
Esta es una novela de fantasía épica para los amantes de Juego de tronos o los libros de Robin Hobb, aunque lo bueno que tiene Bujold es que sabe ir al grano, y resumir cuando es necesario y lo malo que no alcanza la profundidad de los anteriores para según qué.
Intrigas políticas y palaciegas, ambientación medieval, una fantasía muy leve y personajes muy interesantes (aunque no tan arrebatadores como los de Vorkosigan).
Sin ser una novela espectacular en ningún aspecto logró tenerme atrapada de principio a fin, disfruté mucho con sus personajes y el estilo de Bujold, que logra hacer verosimil lo más absurdo gracias a su habilidad literaria para crear personajes complejos y realistas.
Tengo ya el siguiente libro de la saga (que es independiente, creo) esperando en la estantería para próximas lecturas.
****Me hubiera gustado ver más fantasía en este libro, eso sí.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,509 followers
May 18, 2013
A highly satisfying and timeless tale of a broken hero’s recovery. Those who expect a typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy from the title or cover will be disappointed. Fans of Bujold’s sci fi Vorkosigan Saga should feel right at home with the strengths evident here: character development, world building, complex enemies, great dialogue, understated romance, and limited but well-framed episodes of violence.

In a Medieval setting of competing kingdoms, the nobleman Cazaril served Chalion well in one of its wars, but was subject to treachery and ended up a galley slave for years. After escaping, he hobbles his way back to Chalion, feeling like an old man at age 35. He is saved from poverty by getting offered the job of tutor to the teenaged princess, Iselle, and older companion and cousin, Betriz. Though Chalion is at peace, Cazaril gets drawn into protecting them from impending dangers. The king is old and sickly, and a pair of evil brothers in the positions of chancellor and top general are plotting ways to make the future succession put them on top. The threat of them corrupting Iselle’s brother/prince or wangling a marriage to Iselle turns Cazaril into a hero again.

There are no dragons or wizards or werewolves in this tale. There are, however, ghosts and living saints, and a special realization of dualism between matter and spirit. So you could call it theological fantasy. The only magic comes through special prayers and incantations made to one of the five gods worshiped in this world-- the Father, the Son, the Mother, the Daughter, and the Bastard, each with their own churches and accolytes. We only deal with one form of magic, the death spell, revealed in the first pages of the book in Carzaril’s discovery of the body of someone who cast one. The main premise of the book is that some inequality of souls taken in a critical use of the death spell in Chalion’s history that has led to a curse on the royal family. How to reverse this curse is Cazaril’s second challenge in this tale.

The reader comes to recognize a third challenge: how can Cazaril fulfill his secret love for Betriz? Because of his health and poverty, Cazaril never believes he is a serious candidate for her hand. This could be suitable grounds for a lot of mushy stuff, but for me Bujold handles romance here in her usual masterly way. By making it more of an underground river, providing a tender refuge for me from his travails and sensitizing my empathetic hopes.

Humor is less prominent in this book than in other Bujold stories, but it works its way nicely into the fabric. For example, here Cazaril elicits the charm of the former queen:
“Your granddaugher is a delightful young lady.”
“To a man of a certain age, Cazaril, all young ladies start to look delightful. It’s the first symptom of senility.”


I was moved when learning about the origins of Cazaril’s saint-like power to bear the tasks he assumes. I will tantalize you by saying only that it has something to do with what he learned after his punishment as a galley slave when he tried to save a boy from abuse: I found out that there is a place beyond fear. When the body and the mind just can’t sustain it any more.

Some of the interesting theological mechanics explored in this tale remind me more of the Divine Comedy or St. Augustine than the spiritual inventions in classic fantasies such as Dune, Lord of the Rings, or Pullman and C.S. Lewis’ series. In the following excerpt, the king’s zookeeper of sacred animals, Umegat, compares the constraints on human and godly powers and the explains the role of saints:

But have you really understood how powerless the gods are when the lowest slave may exclude them from his heart? And if from his heart then from the world as well, for the gods may not reach in except through living souls. If gods could seek passage from anyone they wished, then men would be mere puppets. Only if they borrow or are given will from a willing creature, do they have a little channel through which to act. …Or …sometimes, a man may open himself to them, and let them pour through them into the world. …A saint is not a virtuous soul, but an empty one. He—or she—freely gives the gift of their will to the god. And in renouncing action, makes action possible.

In sum, this fantasy doesn’t have the flash of transporting you to a totally different world like the other classics mentioned, but it is great for creating a society close to our own, but different enough to be a parallel universe. The people follow our pathway with a phase of hereditary monarchy, but plausible alternative religions develop. In this universe a few human events of mythical or miraculous proportions gain a reality. But none of this overlay is heavy and is well subjugated to the drama of compelling story. The soul searching and attempts by Cazaril to make meaning of his fate feel like a creative way to lighten his load. I loved the following example which feels like the story of Job given a Buddhist slant:

If the gods saw people’s souls but not their bodies, in mirror of the way people saw bodies but not souls, it might explain why gods were so careless of such things as appearance, or other bodily functions. Such as pain? Was pain an illusion, from the gods’ point of view? Perhaps heaven was not a place, but merely an angle of view, a vantage, a perspective.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews827 followers
December 27, 2017
“How strangely we are blinded by the surfaces of things.”

What is a diamond? A lump of ordinary coal that took pressure exceptionally well. Castillar Lupe dy Cazaril is your diamond in this story. And please do not call him broken, there is nothing broken about the diamond, even before it is cut to gain the proper shine and brilliance.

The Curse of Chalion is a story told from the margins of a great power play. You know all these books sporting princes and princesses fighting for or defending their heritage, the tales that take you right there to the very heart of what is happening and let you experience the heat of events through the eyes and hearts, and souls of the high and lofty? This is not one these books. The tide of the tale takes us in, but we follow its erratic swirls observing them from the point of view of a seemingly unimportant shell snatched from the shore. The narrator is merely a faithful companion to the main players. Furthermore, the story, as all good stories should, unfolds in both directions, into the future and into the past - not retrospectively, but in a way that allows the reader to make sense of seemingly unimportant events or to join them into a meaningful sequence.

“Sec’t’y-tutor, One ea. Gift from Grandmama. Aged thirty-five. Badly damaged in shipping”.

In spite of his lowly status, Caz is the main pillar of the story. In fact, he bears the weight of the whole book on his weary shoulders. I was genuinely surprised how this middle-aged man was able to hook me into his narrative. Ex-soldier turned secretary whose main ambition was to find a quiet corner where high life would not bother him anymore does not sound terribly exciting, does it? And yet, this steadfast and principled, rather introvert person, swept into the drama shows that the smallest piece of rock can start a huge avalanche and be a crucial agent of momentous change. Caz is not a mere instrument, an accidental tool or a passive witness, he reaches out into the thickest of the forces at play to grasp and to master what is happening. This ownership is rooted in the free will of a stellar character:

“Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men always have a choice - if not whether, then how, they may endure.”

Caz, whose body has been mutilated but his spirit is not broken, and at times it soars so high that hardly any other character in the book can equal these heights, endures without becoming a pompous martyr.

The motif I found the most profound in the whole book is the invitation to reconsider our own personal paths - when we a arrive at some point in our lives we can always ask ourselves: was it by accident, by pure chance or was there some design, some pattern to it? If so, where and when has it begun? Was I a conscious and willing element or just a grain of sand caught in the turning gyres? From this vantage point, Caz’s journey is simply incredible and wonderfully told.

In addition to lovely prose, Ms Bujold created a cohort of engaging characters. The members of the ruling House of Chalion, including its youngest scions, the siblings Royesse Iselle and Royse Teidez, two focal points of the intrigue, the courtiers, the servants, even the animals and the divine beings, form an amazing assortment of tropes and figures.

“The god’s most savage curses come to us as answers to our own prayers. Prayer is a dangerous business. I think it should be outlawed.”

Undoubtedly, the way Ms Bujold approached the divine and supernatural is one of the strongest points of the book. She tackled this theme at least as skilfully as Robert Jackson Bennett in his Divine Cities and much, much better than the (unjustifiably, if you ask me) acclaimed Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell (although Saint's Blood is still ahead of me, so perhaps I'm in for a pleasant surprise).

The whole idea of a curse, central to the whole plot was fiendishly clever because it rendered evil characters with more than a two-dimensional perspective, even though the majority of what happens is quite easy to surmise in advance.

On the (relative) cons side, the pacing is slow and filled with intrigue rather than action (please note, it was not an issue for me, I couldn't put the book down) and the romantic subplot is entirely unromantic (and not because of the age difference, but due to a total lack of chemistry).

I have found in Bujold everything I have been looking for and even more than I asked, and I will definitely be continuing the series and reading her other novels.

--
Also in the series:

2. Paladin of souls RTC
3. The Hallowed Hunt RTC
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books697 followers
September 16, 2018
A sweet story of courtly intrigue and women ordering a world that thinks it's ordering them.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things to love:

-Cazaril. The main character is tragically tormented, and we watch him heal. He's loyal, kind, intelligent, and extremely brave.

-The other characters. The Provencara, Iselle, Betriz, Pally, the Fox, Bergen, Umegat... they all became friends. They all have lovely, distinct personalities and humors. You cheer for all of them.

-The ending. I've been reading a lot of very depressing books lately. Sure, this had some darkness to it, but it was nice for everything to come to rest, and to rest happily for the principle parties.

Things I didn't love:

-What moves the story. Caz is great. And he did marvelous things. But I'm not entirely sure why, and it feels like most of the story was actually Iselle's, Ista's, the Royina, and the other women. But this was framed as a sort of swashbuckling story and therefore, despite their own inner strengths and the fact that it was they who moved pawns, it still couldn't be their story.

-He thought Betriz was 16. I get that this is loosely based upon a tale of the actual Spanish aristocracy. But it was veeery loose. I'm always a little grumbly about romances set up between people of vastly disparate ages and experiences--especially when it turns out that the person seems younger than their years, rather than older. This one is better than most but I still want to know what it is that makes authors write these stories.

-A bit convoluted. In the manner of those gothic romances, there's a lot going on that manages to get wrapped up very neatly. It was a fun story and well told, so it's not like it hindered things, but at the end I asked "how is this all possible?" Even with the logic of the book, the plot didn't quite add up.

-Needed more magic. This world has very potent magic. But apparently one god is much more direct than the others. I'd liked to have seen more about that.

-Audiobook. I listened to this and a lot of it was very good but there was a lot of stuttering and laughing that felt unnecessary, and the inflection was often not how I envisioned things. It really marred some of the humor.

Probably closer to 3.5 stars, and possibly would have been rounded up if I'd read it with my eyes or with more distance from another book that involved disparate power dynamics in a relationship. If you're looking for a sweet, action-filled romance, this would fit the bill admirably.
Profile Image for Cameron Johnston.
Author 16 books446 followers
February 17, 2021
Why oh why had I not read The Curse of Chalion before now? It's such a wonderful book! So good I'll probably also buy a physical copy to enjoy.

It's a slow build, character driven political fantasy full of intrigue and heart. Much as I love my grim and gritty fantasy, sometimes a fantasy about a broken man trying to do good and make a better world is just what I need.
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