The Curse of Chalion

Lois McMaster Bujold
The Curse of Chalion Cover

The Curse of Chalion


The Curse of Chalion is something I wish I hadn't put off until now. I decided it would be the final book in the WOGF Challenge, because all the other books I had decided upon seemed fresh and different by juxtaposition. A medieval fantasy with lords and ladies and magic?

Meh. Been there, done that. Am I right?

Wrong, okay? Wrong.

There's something to be said for authors who stick within prescribed limits, and then obliterate them. The Curse of Chalion may be a medieval fantasy with lords, ladies and magic, but it's also a gripping tale with great characters and worldbuilding done right.

Let's talk about Cazaril. Cazaril is the man. He's the strong willed hero, if the strong willed hero got sold to a slave galley and spent the better part of two years being beaten and humiliated and threatened on a daily basis. Cazaril got screwed over in a political scheme (aren't political schemes the worst?), but managed to survive.

Only, he doesn't want revenge. He wants to go live in the castle he once served in, wants a hot meal, decent clothes, and a bed to sleep in. He wants history to pass him by, and to die peacefully. Rather, he gets appointed to the tutor/secretary of the sister of the boy who is about to rule.

And, naturally, things only get worse. The thing I really liked about Cazaril was his doggedness. He's broken in body and spirit, but he still does what he can do for the people he cares about. He even does something unforgivable (SPOILERS) in order to protect the woman he is charged with.

If there's a problem with him, it's that his self-sacrifice can be a bit annoying at times. Here's a man who puts others before himself, and he sure loves to talk about it. Or internal monologue about it.

The supporting characters have their own quips and personalities. This isn't just a bunch of cliched characters inhabiting roles. Each person feels real, and if there's one thing Bujold knows how to do, it's tell a story with a sense of humor. I definitely laughed a bunch of times while reading this.

The politics may be on the simple side, but that doesn't mean they're any less compelling. Honestly, it's kind of nice to take a break from Martin's one million lords set-up. There's good guys and bad guys, and there's no question about who's who. And that's fine, because you will want to find out what happens as you read.

While this is part of a series, this could be read as standalone. I'm going to read the others. But I'm glad this story was told in just one book. It's a damn good book too. A lot of fun to read. This is one you'll want to check out.