by Lois McMaster Bujold
Opening line: “Ista leaned forward between the crenellations atop the gate tower, the stone gritty beneath her pale hands, and watched in numb exhaustion as the final mourning party cleared the castle gate below.”
Paladin of Souls is the second of the Chalion books. It’s not a sequel exactly, although we do get a few mentions of the main characters from the first book. Instead, it follows Ista, Dowager Royina of Chalion and mother to the current Royina, Iselle. Most people think she is troubled with madness. In fact, she is haunted by both grief and anger.
Ista is quite a different main character than Iselle. She is older, of course, and less optimistic. She knows that the gods are real and doesn’t want them to be–refuses to pray because she thinks she knows the disastrous results of her prayers. Despite her anger, she also has more quietness to her than Iselle.
I very much enjoyed this one, particularly the cast of supporting characters, which was excellent. Learned dy Cabon was a favorite. I’m always on the lookout for connections to other books, especially Megan Whalen Turner (I fully admit that I tend to use that series as a measuring stick for everything else). There’s a section about storytelling early on which did actually remind me quite vividly of the various discussions of oral storytelling vs. words on a page in Turner’s books:
Ista had heard various versions of the tally of the gods what seemed several hundred times since childhood, but she had admit, dy Cabon’s delivery of the old story had the eloquence and sincerity to make it seem almost new again.
The castle section was a little less compelling, but I was pretty invested in the characters by then and didn’t really mind. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book, although I felt like it lacked a little bit of the texture of the first one. Still, Ista’s story is carefully balanced between bitterness and hope, between faith and anger and I found it satisfying.
Book source: public library
Book information: Eos, 2003; adult
The Curse of Chalion