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*****= An all-time favorite
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***Paladin of Souls

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Reviewed December 20, 2003.
Eos Books (HarperCollins), New York, 2003.  456 pages.

I decided to try this fantasy author on the recommendation of my writing buddy, Kristin.  I’m afraid I should have started with the book this was a sequel to, The Curse of Chalion.  I thought Paladin of Souls got off to a very slow start, but I probably wouldn’t have minded if I had read the earlier book and already knew the characters.

I’m afraid that I don’t like fantasy books for adults nearly as well as fantasy books for young adults.  The books for younger readers remind me more of fairy tales, and have a more mythic feel.  Fantasy for adults is full of details of the strange new world, and for me they bog down the reading.

I have to admit that Lois McMaster Bujold is wonderfully inventive.  She creates a world with five gods—the Mother, the Father, the Son, the Daughter, and the Bastard.  The country next to Chalion only worships the first four of those gods and persecutes people who worship the Bastard.  There are also demons and demon possession.  However, there are also sorcerers, who have a demon inside of them, but master the demon, instead of the other way around.

I have to admit that philosophically I’m not crazy about books about planets with multiple gods.  Like C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, I think that if we met people living on another planet, we would find that the God of the Bible is not a provincial god, limited to our planet.  No, I believe that he is the God who made the universe and would be worshiped on other planets as well.

However, part of the strength of fantasy is creating a world that is very different from the reality we know, and thus enabling us to see aspects of our own reality more clearly.

Once I got through the first five chapters of this book, understood the setting, the world and the characters, the book was very absorbing and told an intriguing story.

Ista, the dowager Royina of Chalion, is finally free of the curse of Chalion.  She wants to get away from the castle where she was staying, so she decides to go on pilgrimage.  She is angry with the gods for the events of her life, so she is not happy when she again begins to get dreams from the gods.

The dreams involve a man with a bloody wound.  Later, after her company is attacked by raiders from the neighboring country, she finds someone with the exact same wound.  Only it is a different man.  Something strange is going on, and the gods want Ista to do something about it.  But what?

This book ends up being a lovely, intriguing story, set in a world very different from ours, yet with people very like us.

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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