Sunday, July 10, 2005

50 Book Challenge #35: The Curse of Chalion

Due to Heidi Bond's impassioned advocacy, I've now read three books by Lois McMaster Bujold. I enjoyed the first, was less thrilled by the second, and am now straining to repress an urge to immediately read a fourth.

This latest was stolen from Will Baude, who had ordered it in response to Ms. Bond's cajoling but was still trying to get through the final convoluted pages of Umberto Eco's latest. I thought having a fun fantasy novel to read on the way to BarBri class instead of listening to PMBR lectures would be a nice break.

Unfortunately, breaking away from the book was utterly impossible. I read it some more during one of our ten minute breaks, then during the second break, and by the end of our trusts lecture was reading the book full time, with occasional interruptions for filling in the blanks in our worksheets (this was the only good thing about the repetitiveness and absurdly specific direction in the lecture: it gave me notice to stop reading Bujold so I could write stuff down). The remedies lecture the following day was composed of similar alternations between fantasy and notetaking.

The Curse of Chalion
is another psychologically perceptive and well-plotted exercise by Bujold. Her conception of religion is not as obviously derivative as some, and the magical happenings are slowly introduced and build to an effectively mystical climax. There is one rather improbably coincidence, but Bujold plays this as a literal deus ex machina and thus evades the bulk of criticism. I want to say I can't wait for Paladin of Souls, but it must come after the Bar; I don't think my prep regime can take another such interruption.

UPDATE: Someone didn't like it. I wasn't bothered by the sex roles, if only because I like fantasy too much to only read the feminist stuff. But if Twisty had made it to the end, she'd have seen a remarkably egalitarian union of souls and kingdoms, a snarky twist on the granting of fair maidens as reward for the service of old retainers, and a well done portrayal of the divine feminine.
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