Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion

I wanted to love The Curse of Chalion because I adore Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, and I was very excited to read a more traditional fantasy novel by her. And there were certainly traces of Bujold’s wit and style in The Curse of Chalion but somehow, almost none of the characters really grabbed me. I liked Yselle and Bergon and Betriz and Cazaril well enough, but they always seemed like characters in service of the plot to me and less like real people (even though Yselle and Bergon were actually based on real medieval Spanish rulers!) I think part of the problem was that Cazaril was too perfect; he was smart and good at statecraft and brave and had one point been strategic and warlike and self-sacrificial and everyone loved him (except for the bad guys) and yet he was so modest that he never realized how much everyone loved him. The conflicts (including the titular curse) all arose from external circumstances, rather than from any flaw in Cazaril’s character and I think that was another reason why this book failed to truly excite me.

(It’s not a great sign when the character in the book whom I found most intriguing had been dead for twenty years or so. I kept wishing Bujold had told us the story of dy Lutez and his complex personality and why he ultimately failed at his task and what he thought about that, etc. rather than telling us about the “present”.)

(Read January 11-January 14, 2010)

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