Monday, June 23, 2014

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

 Sequel to Curse of Chalion, this story picks up about three years after those events. The Provincara of Valenda has died, and her daughter, the dowager royina, Ista, finally decides she must throw off the chains that have bound her to that place and go on a pilgrimage. She gathers "by chance" an interesting crew to accompany her - the brothers Foix and Ferda of the Daughter's Order, the Learned dy Cabon, a priest of The Bastard, a young woman courier named Liss, and a miscellaneous troupe of men at arms acccompanying Foix and Ferda. Her path is indeterminate at first, and they wander from holy site to shrine casually, but when they encounter a Jokonan force on a scouting expedition gone astray in one of the northern provinces where war with the Roknari is about to break out, things get hairy in a hurry.

Ista sends Liss off to warn the countryside and summon help, instructs Foix, who was recently "infested" by a demon, and dy Cabon, who will be tortured by the Jokonans for his faith, to hide in a culvert until the force has passed, and flees like a wounded mother bird to lure the force away from her young companions. She is capture by the Jokonans and will be held for ransom, a tasty prize due to her close connection with the ruling couple of Chalion. She is rescued after a short time by Arhys dy Lutez, a bastard son of the same dy Lutez who was her husband Ias' best friend, and who died in a misconceived ritual to rid the kingdom of the curse in the previous book's title.

Arhys rules a small but strong keep called Porifors, which contains an interesting mystery in and of itself, and which turns out to be the key to stopping a Roknari plot to invade Chalion. Ista finds that the gods have plans for her which do not include her settling down and acting the part of an aging spinster, and finds that the work they hold for her has rewards beyond her expectations.

Great stuff, and the only bad thing is that it appears to be the final book in this cycle, aside from the vaguely related The Hallowed Hunt.

I leave you with a marvelous Bujold quote:

"I am too old to start over."

"You have more years ahead of you than Pejar, half your age, whom we buried outside these walls these two days past. Stand before his grave and use your gift of breath to complain of your limited time. If you dare."

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