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The Curse of Chalion Hardcover – July 31, 2001
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Iselle, the royesse (princess) of Chalion, and her lady-in-waiting, Bertriz, need a new tutor. Cazaril, the man chosen for the job, has been scarred, physically and mentally, from secret betrayals by the very people who now rule Chalion through Iselle's uncle, and who seek to control her younger brother, the heir, as well. To rescue the royesse, and save Chalion, Cazaril must play matchmaker between Iselle and the prince of another realm, fight off assassins, lift a century-old curse, and risk everything-learning not to run from his own love for Bertriz-along the way. Bujold weaves a convincing and captivating fantasy world, well researched, with magic that works and gods that live without destroying the balance of this medieval society. Cazaril's life is rich with detail, and plays a part in the conclusion. The villains are believably motivated. The young heroines are deeply sympathetic characters as well. Readers will find themselves rooting for the good guys, while still uncertain that all can end without at least one of them suffering a dire fate. A finely balanced mixture of adventure, swordplay, court intrigue, romance, magic, and religion makes this book a delightful read.
Paul Brink, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Betrayed by an unknown enemy into slavery, former soldier and courtier Lupe dy Cazaril escapes his bondage and returns to the royal household he once served. Entrusted with the teaching of the sister to the heir to the throne of Chalion, Cazaril finds himself drawn into a tangled web of politics and dark magic as he battles a curse that threatens the lives and souls of a family he has come to love. The author of the "Vorkosigan" series of dynastic sf turns her hand as competently and engagingly to the fantasy genre in a tale of quiet heroism and self-sacrifice. Compelling characters and richly detailed world building make this a strong addition to fantasy collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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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.
This book is recommended to adults who enjoy fantasy, politics, fresh story, strong female characters, little or no romance, medieval, world building.