This sequel to Curse of Chalion takes place soon after the events of that book, but follows the character of Ista. No longer under the curse that made her seem depressed/deranged, the widow chafes at the confines of palace life. She decides to take a pilgrimage after her disastrous brush with the deities in the past, she doesnt have any interest in the gods, but religion seems a good excuse to freely wander through the countryside on a bit of a vacation. Unfortunately, the gods take an interest in her. After a few disturbing incidents involving demon-possessed animals, and the ever-present threat of Roknari invaders, soon, Ista finds herself at a castle headed by a handsome lord and his beautiful and loving young wife however, not all may be as it seems. What mysterious ailment has stricken the lords brother? And what do the gods want Ista to do about it all?
The book works as a stand-alone novel, still, I was glad that I had previously read the first one, for the deeper knowledge of past events and awareness of various characters
I have to admit, I slightly preferred Curse of Chalion to this one, just because I found the protagonist in that book, Cazaril, to be such an engaging character. However, this was still an excellent book, and one Id recommend.
Romantic Times Award Winner - Best Fantasy Novel, 2003
Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 2004
Nebula Award Winner, Best Novel, 2004
So naturally, this is my least favorite book in the series. It's wonderful, but the other two sang a bit more strongly. I swear these awards are like the Oscars, where you really win because you should have won before! Still very good, but it's just longer then it needed to be -- a little tightening up would have made this very good book even better.
Anyway this is the second book in the Chalion series, although this series is not all one long story -- each book has it's own stand-alone plot set in the same world. This novel sees a small side character introduced in The Curse of Chalion setting off as the main character of her own adventure. And not just anybody -- the murderous, insane dowager queen! I love that about Bujold -- it's not all about the youth on the brink of adulthood over and over again.
I would recommend reading The Curse of Chalion first since it introduces the setting and Ista's background, but it actually doesn't matter if you read this book or The Hallowed Hunt next -- they have no overlapping storyline at all, just similar settings.
What a great second book in this trilogy. This is the follow up to the Curse of Chalion and if possible, this book is even better than the first. Writing is first rate. Characters become great friends - or enemies - story is unexpected and well plotted. Excellent book and highly recommended along with Curse of Chalion!