Normally, these are the sort of books that I pick up in the bookstore, give a “hmm” at the cover, and keep walking. I’ve never been great at immersing myself in fantasy worlds outside of the big-names; I just don’t have a memory for the complex lore and histories of most fantasy epics. When I open up a book and it starts with breakdowns of family names and maps of imaginary places I usually slam it shut and run away, knowing my own limits of organization and patience.
BUT- much like Gideon the Ninth before them, the words from Cannonballers steered me past my inhibitions and directly into a series in which I am now obsessed.
GoAllieGo had me in her sights when she sent Paladin of Souls my way during the 2021 Book Exchange! I was looking for a change of pace, saw that it was outside of my everyday go-tos, and dove in head-first…only to realize about 30 pages in that it was the second book in a series! Oops!
The world demands I make good choices on no information, and then blames my maidenhood for my mistakes, as if my maidenhood were responsible for my ignorance. Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be. And I do not like feeling stupid.
The version that came my way is a glorious mass-market paperback with a sweet cover illustration, so obviously I needed the FIRST book in the SAME shape! I can’t have my series in different editions, now can I? Paladin of Souls was put reluctantly on the backburner while I waited with an utter lack of patience for The Curse of Chalion to arrive.
Finally, now, I am writing to you from the other side of wanting and waiting. I have finished both entries, and I CANNOT wait to get into more!
Both The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls take place within the same fantasy world. They follow the same map, adhere to the same rules, and follow the characters within the same kingdom: the Royacy of Chalion. Lois McMaster Bujold gave great care to the creation of her world: the religion is fleshed-out and fascinating, the rules of magic are brutal and breathtaking, the ins-and-outs of courtly life are equally clear and confounding.
The gods’ most savage curses come upon us as answers to our own prayers. Prayer is a dangerous business.
The Curse of Chalion follows the physically and mentally broken Caz; a former courtier and soldier sold into slavery following a military disaster orchestrated and encouraged by some seriously baaaaaaad men. Paladin of Souls follows the Dowager Royina Ista; a widowed queen who may or may not be entirely one with reality but who has been set on a literally god-forsaken path towards redemption. Both stories cover the realms of family, fortune, faith, and- of course- CURSES! Luckily, the ins-and-outs remain clear and metered. Both tales are narrated solely through their main characters, and while castles change and miles of trail give way under hundreds of pounding hoofbeats, the story beats are always on-point and NEVER predictable. The number of gasps, groans, “ha!”s and “ohhhhhhmygods” that came involuntarily from me while reading definitely set my poor husband on edge. After one particularly egregious “eeee!” towards the end of Paladin of Souls I turned to him and yelled, before he could ask what was happening, “THINGS ARE GETTING SEXY! AND SCARY!”
There’s a particularly dashing gentleman (caught in a particularly dastardly plot) who is now the recipient of all of my confused-about-Adam-Driver-in The Last Duel feelings: all of the eye-candy with none of the VERY BAD BEHAVIOR. Seriously- this guy’s description is pure Driver (image-wise, at least) and I am HERE FOR IT.