The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
I always hear good things about Lois McMaster Bujold, but so far I've had only disappointing experiences with her books. The Curse of Chalion was no exception.

The main protagonist of this novel is Cazaril, a soldier and courtier in Chalion, who has just returned to the household where he used to serve after escaping bondage in foreign captivity. While the slavery and torture is now behind him, he is returning to a world where he may very well have unknown enemies—enemies who betrayed him into slavery in the first place. He finds a commission at his former household as a tutor for the young royesse, Iselle, and her lady-in-waiting, Bertriz. But he's going to have to do more than just tutor them—this is a world of magic and politics and the girls are going to need his help to navigate the treacherous social terrain.

Book Cover

On Audio
I certainly have to give Bujold credit for telling a character-driven story here. Though, my main problem with this story is that it lacks any sort of immediacy for me. For much of the first half of this book, I had a hard time discerning what was at stake for these characters; the unfolding of this tale is slow and the driving conflict of the characters is not apparent. This may very well be a case of too much character development. I felt like I was watching the characters interact without reason for doing so. Ultimately I feel the first several chapters of this novel fail to answer the all-important question for readers: "So what?" Why read on? The story picks up toward the middle of this novel, but why do we have to wait so long?

There is an audiobook available for The Curse of Chalion, but it is difficult to find. If you happen upon it, pick it up because it's a solid production.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.