“Paladin of Souls”, the second chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion trilogy is just as fantastic as “The Curse of Chalion” and maybe slightly better. Shifting the focus from Cazaril and royal court, Bujold followed the formerly mad dowager royina Ista through a false pilgrimage into the heart of a war in which the mortal, demonic, and the divine are twisted together.
Set three years after the first book, the book begins with Ista having finished with the funeral rites for her own mother and dealing with stigma of her former madness. Wanting to just escape her childhood home, later asylum, Ista uses the uses the idea of a religious pilgrimage for the purpose if only for a little while. But hardly has it begun when her party is first attacked by demonic and then enemy forces. After being made a special prisoner, Ista is rescued like in a children’s tale by Arhys dy Lutez, the commander of the border fortress of Castle Porifors. And it’s only when Ista arrives at Porifors that things get really interesting.
Although Ista is the main character, Bujold returns two other minor characters from the first book the dy Gura brother though the younger Foix is given more attention than his elder brother. Attending Ista as her lady-in-waiting is “tomboy” courier Liss, who is both feisty and clever as well as been naive creates a well rounded character. The various inhabitants of Porifors and the their links to the great mystery that Ista and her party stumble upon are ingeniously constructed. Bujold further develops her theological system, which is one of the most unique and clever that I’ve personally read.
To be honest I couldn’t find a fault in this book, from the first page I was hook and always wanted to follow along with Ista as she attempted to figure out what was happening in both the realms of the mortal and the divine. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of fantasy and enjoyed “The Curse of Chalion.”