“The Curse of Chalion”, Lois McMaster Bujold’s first foray into fantasy is a literally one of the best books in the genre I had read. The story follows Cazaril going from barely above being a vagabond to servicing as secretary and advisor to the young, yet intelligent princess of Chalion. Then Cazaril is forced to going to the royal court and soon finds that not only is he having to protect his charge and himself from human enemies of all kinds, but also the supernatural due to the actions of the a previous King but Cazaril himself.
The world in which the story takes place is thoroughly thought from the political to the religious, societally from the royal court down to the peasant struggling to survive. From the start the religious and magical system Bujold built as an integral part of her world just grabs the reader in it’s familiar elements to Christianity and New Age concepts, but also it’s uniqueness and originality. But when the reader experiences the realm of The Five, Bujold writes it like a mystical experience that it’s hard for a mere mortal to explain in words and the reader experiences that difficulty along with Cazaril.
The sole issue I have with the story is the somewhat creepiness in the relationship between Cazaril and Lady Betriz, and the somewhat annoying trope of men not getting the signals from women that tends to invade many genres. However, the story isn’t a romance and thus these “issues” don’t really take away from the overall story.
“The Curse of Chalion” is a must read for any fantasy reader, it’s highly recommended and now one of my favorite books.