What a great book!
It reminded me to put everything by Bujold that I haven't read on my wishlist!
Engaging characters meet an action-filled plot with tons of plotting and intrigue. I have to admit that this kind of "castle intrigue" is definitely one of my favorite genres of novels. I'd very much recommend this to fans of George R.R. Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay.
My edition came with blurbs from Robert Jordan & Dennis McKiernan, and an ad for the latest Weis & Hickman - all of which, I must admit, I eyed with trepidation, not having an overly high opinion of any of those authors - but although this is undeniably epic fantasy, Bujold's writing far exceeds those other authors. I read the first chapter on my way to work - and after just that one chapter, the main character stayed in my head all day - I couldn't wait to read more. And today at work, I must admit, I had the book at my desk, sneaking a page here and there at opportune moments.... wink.gif
Cazaril, a high-born military man who, through an act of treachery, was sold as a galley slave, has finally escaped - but barely with his life. He comes crawling back to the great house where he was employed in his youth - and, unexpectedly, finds himself in the position of tutor to a young princess, Iselle, and her handmaiden Betriz. This seemingly peaceful job may entail more than one might expect, however, considering the chaotic state of politics both within and without the kingdom of Chalion - and an evil curse that hangs over the royal family.
If you like well-developed characters, this book has them. The first 175 pages is spent solely on character development and providing history on Cazaril, the unlikely hero of the story. It makes for very slow reading, but the book does pick up by page 200.
This is a non-traditional fantasy. There is no magic; instead, Cazaril's world has a very dominant, active religion, where miracles happen.
The book's ending is happy but predictable.
Excellent read from an author at the very top of her form. Clever, thorough world-building with no sacrifice of character. Leaped straight to the top of my all-time favorites list of books to re-read. Not going to re-post this one, sorry! It's a keeper.
Weeks after finishing this book I still find myself remembering these characters, their lives and interactions. Great book.
I loved every second! This was my very first Bujold book, and poof! I became an immediate life-long fan!
Things started out fine.... It's a big fantasy, so there's always a lot of background info to impart at the beginning. Unusual set-up for a main character (which turns out to be the norm for Bujold -- yet another thing I love about her books), then the story started to get more established.... And then bang! About a third of the way in there was a huge twist and I was completely revited! There was one little place where I thought something was just a little too convenient, but this was good enough for a reread!
The story is full of court politics, long conversations, and the main fantasy element is based in the local religion. No dragons or elves running about in this one -- it's the five gods who control the magic here. Well, maybe I should say it's the five gods and the high court who make poor Cazaril's life so crazy during the story!
Oh -- and this book is fully stand-alone. It's technically the first book in the Chalion series, but the plot comes to a full conclusion, and the other books in the series are set in the same world but tell their own stories as well, mostly using new characters. In fact, if you're following the series, it makes absolutely no difference if you read the second or the third book next -- there's zero overlap between two.
I love this author's first forays into fantasy from science fiction. The theology of this world is rich and complex and real and blends seemlessly with the fantastic magic.