- Series: Chalion series (Book 1)
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager; EOS Trade Pbk ed. edition (April 11, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061134244
- ISBN-13: 978-0061134241
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 518 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Curse of Chalion (Chalion series) Paperback – April 11, 2006
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From the Author
A Bujold Reading-Order Guide
My fantasy novels are not hard toorder. Easiest of all is The Spirit Ring, which is a stand-alone, oraquel, as some wag once dubbed books that for some obscure reason failed tospawn a subsequent series. Next easiest are the four volumes of The SharingKnife--in order, Beguilement, Legacy, Passage, and Horizon--whichI broke down and actually numbered, as this was one continuous tale dividedinto non-wrist-breaking chunks.
What were called the Chalion booksafter the setting of its first two volumes, but which now that the geographicscope has widened I'm dubbing the World of the Five Gods, were written to bestand-alones as part of a larger whole, and can in theory be read in any order.Some readers think the world-building is easier to assimilate when the booksare read in publication order, and the second volume certainly containsspoilers for the first (but not the third.) In any case, the publication orderis:
The Curse of Chalion
Paladin of Souls
The Hallowed Hunt
"Penric and the Shaman"
In terms of internal world chronology, The Hallowed Hunt wouldfall first, the Penric novellas perhaps a hundred and fifty years later, and TheCurse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls would follow a century or soafter that.
Other Original E-books
The short story collection ProtoZoa contains five very early tales--three (1980s) contemporary fantasy, twoscience fiction--all previously published but not in this handy format. Thenovelette "Dreamweaver's Dilemma" may be of interest to Vorkosigan completists,as it is the first story in which that proto-universe began, mentioning BetaColony but before Barrayar was even thought of.
Sidelines:Talks and Essays is just what it says on the tin--a collection of threedecades of my nonfiction writings, including convention speeches, essays,travelogues, introductions, and some less formal pieces. I hope it will provean interesting companion piece to my fiction.
Many pixels have been expended debating the 'best' order inwhich to read what have come to be known as the Vorkosigan Books (or Saga), theVorkosiverse, the Miles books, and other names. The debate mainly revolvesaround publication order versus internal-chronological order. I favor internalchronological, with a few adjustments.
It was always my intention to write each book as astand-alone, so that the reader could theoretically jump in anywhere. Whilestill somewhat true, as the series developed it acquired a number of sub-arcs,closely related tales that were richer for each other. I will list the sub-arcs,and then the books, and then the duplication warnings. (My publishing historyhas been complex.) And then the publication order, for those who want it.
Shards of Honor and Barrayar. The first twobooks in the series proper, they detail the adventures of Cordelia Naismith ofBeta Colony and Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar. Shards was my very firstnovel ever; Barrayar was actually my eighth, but continues the tale thenext day after the end of Shards. For readers who want to be sure ofbeginning at the beginning, or who are very spoiler-sensitive, start with thesetwo.
The Warrior's Apprentice and The Vor Game(with, perhaps, the novella "The Mountains of Mourning" tucked in between.) TheWarrior's Apprentice introduces the character who became the series'linchpin, Miles Vorkosigan; the first book tells how he created a spacemercenary fleet by accident; the second how he fixed his mistakes from thefirst round. Space opera and military-esque adventure (and a number of otherthings one can best discover for oneself), The Warrior's Apprenticemakes another good place to jump into the series for readers who prefer a youngmale protagonist.
After that: Brothers in Arms should be read before MirrorDance, and both, ideally, before Memory.
Komarr makes another alternate entry point for theseries, picking up Miles's second career at its start. It should be read beforeA Civil Campaign.
Borders of Infinity, a collection of three of thefive currently extant novellas, makes a good Miles Vorkosigan early-adventuresampler platter, I always thought, for readers who don't want to committhemselves to length. (But it may make more sense if read after TheWarrior's Apprentice.) Take care not to confuse the collection-as-a-wholewith its title story, "The Borders of Infinity".
Falling Free takes place 200years earlier in the timeline and does not share settings or characters withthe main body of the series. Most readers recommend picking up this storylater. It should likely be read before Diplomatic Immunity, however,which revisits the "quaddies", a bioengineered race of free-fall dwellers, inMiles's time.
The novels in the internal-chronological list below appearin italics; the novellas (officially defined as a story between 17,500 wordsand 40,000 words) in quote marks.
Shards of Honor
The Warrior's Apprentice
"The Mountains of Mourning"
The Vor Game
Ethan of Athos
Borders of Infinity
"The Borders of Infinity"
Brothers in Arms
A Civil Campaign
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
The novella "Weatherman" is anout-take from the beginning of the novel The Vor Game. If you alreadyhave The Vor Game, you likely don't need this.
The original 'novel' Borders ofInfinity was a fix-up collection containing the three novellas "TheMountains of Mourning", "Labyrinth", and "The Borders of Infinity", togetherwith a frame to tie the pieces together. Again, beware duplication. The framestory does not stand alone.
This is also the order in which theworks were written, apart from a couple of the novellas, but is not identicalto the internal-chronological. It goes:
Shards of Honor (June 1986)
The Warrior's Apprentice (August 1986)
Ethan of Athos (December1986)
Falling Free (April1988)
Brothers in Arms (January 1989)
Borders of Infinity (October 1989)
The Vor Game (September1990)
Mirror Dance(March 1994)
A Civil Campaign (September 1999).
Diplomatic Immunity (May 2002)
"Winterfair Gifts" (February 2004)
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (November 2012)
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (February 2016)
. . . Thirtyyears fitted on a page. Huh.
-- Lois McMaster Bujold
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The tale begins with a grimy old man making his way along the road. Eventually, you realize he is neither an old man nor the average person. The story takes the "special person who does not know he is special" trope and gives it a bit of a twist by making the hero, Caz, a thirty something man who has had lots of experience in the royal court but ends up in a battle which results in his being sold to a slaver. He is treated horribly on the ship and goes through what we later understand through bits and pieces of revelations is a sort of religious experience.
I am trying not to spoil anything; that is why I am being vague.
Anyway, as the story progresses we see the effects Caz has on the lives of the people in the kingdom he comes into contact with, especially two people he ends up assigned to oversee.
As a hero, Caz is likable and heroic but so totally unassuming you just can't help but like him. It will soon be discovered he has a dark and dangerous mission assigned to him by the Gods!!
OK, first of all, the writing is good in this book. No clunky sentences or terrible dialogue. The main characters are types in the sense we find them repeatedly in this kind of fantasy. Examples: the inexperience royal who is mislead by his fawning followers who have terrible motives; the young woman who is smarter and stronger than she should be given the social roles of her gender; the old woman who is wise but judged crazy; the aging ruler who was once good but now is old and a bit crazy and weak. You get the picture. But the main characters are psychologically distinct and we see them develop and change.
Unlike The Game of Thrones where every character is psychologically developed and there are over a dozen main story lines all going at once, in this book we have the traditional focus on a limited few characters and there are none of the lengthy sections where chapter after chapter shifts to a totally new time and country. There are a few jumps where you start a new chapter to find that the trip they started out on at the end of the previous chapter is over and suddenly they are riding into a courtyard after a two day ride, and I remember at least one place where there was the old "winter gave way to dripping eaves and warm winds" time shift.
However, generally things move along without major jumps. The plot all focuses around the major group of characters and so while there are two separate orders of soldiers and a few religious orders, there is no real detail about them or the people in them or the political intrigues going on behind the scene. There is enough background here that if the author had wanted this could have been a ten volume series. The bad guys plot, of course, but mainly we see the results of this rather than read about the plotting or the psychology of the plotters, which is actually good here because the plotters are meant to cause problems not provide us with in-depth characters.
If the author had wanted, I easily saw a place about 3/4 of the way through where she could have ended "Book one" and then gone on to "Book Two" and fleshed out the characters and motivations and such a bit more rather than end the book. Things do move a bit quickly in the final fifth of the book and a few things resolve rather quicker than they might! (I wish the last fifty pages had taken more like one hundred pages.) But if anything you will only wish things had slowed down a hair because you realize you are about to end the reading experience!!
There is a little bit of tear jerking sacrifice toward the end that may make you sniffle a bit or bring a drop to your eye. But that is good. :) Lots of devious plots. Not much in the way of sword play, but it is not totally lacking in this, especially toward the end. The magic is more personal religious experience rather than fire ball throwing and mountain tumbling down stuff. No dragons. Sorry. There are some very interesting crows!
If you are looking for one of those series where things go on and on and every character is gone into in depth so that you fear the series will not be done before you shuffle off your mortal coil, this will not fully satisfy.
But if you want a stand alone, one volume, traditional high fantasy novel with interesting characters if not totally unexpected circumstances and themes, this will satisfy you. I very much recommend this book.
Just a quick note: if you like this you might enjoy the old Barbara Hambly series The Darwath Series: The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight. There are lots of one volume fantasies published twenty or thirty years ago that are excellent and have been forgotten.
I will try other of her books, though the one I am reading now by her, "Penric and the shaman," seems a bit light.
It's a very clever reworking of the story of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (turn the map upside down and see if it looks familiar), with deeply real characters. There are a few hundred other reviews, so I won't repeat what's already been said, other than to agree with one reviewer that this is a clear "desert island" candidate.
It's an amazing fantasy story with dynamic and complex characters and outstanding world-building. Like her Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga Book 2)/Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga Book 3) duology in the Vorkosigan Saga, I could literally finish reading this book and flip back to page 1 to start again. Cazaril is similar to Miles Vorkosigan somewhere around the time of Cryoburn (Vorkosigan Saga Book 15) in that he was young and brash at one point, but now has a deep sense of right, wrong, and honor tempered by a full life of experience.
The book is sometimes funny, sometimes dark, but always thought-provoking. When gods influence the world, what is the true nature of fate and what decisions do we make for ourselves?