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5730RE: [mythsoc] recommendation: Bujold's Curse of Chalion

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    Apr 3, 2002
      Original Message:
      From: Pauline J. Alama PJAlama@...
      Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 08:06:37 -0500 (EST)
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [mythsoc] recommendation: Bujold's Curse of Chalion

      << Attempting once more to discuss Mythopoiec Fantasy Award nominees on the list (last time I tried I got a whole 1 response -- 1 very detailed & thoughtful response, but not the lively multi-voiced discussion I might have hoped for), I'd like to draw people's attention to a very exciting nominee, Lois McMaster Bujold's _The Curse of Chalion_. This has become, in my mind, the book by which all other nominees will be measured. [I will try not to include any plot spoilers, for the sake of list members who have not read it.] >>

      I *loved* Bujold's *Curse of Chalion.* Definitely one of the best books on list, and I enjoyed all the elements you did: the clear-voiced characters, the moral dilemas, the pantheon, the political machinations, but most especially, Cazaril himself.

      What did you think of Powers' *Declare?* One of my faves, with the supernatural elements, the characters, the realistic qualities of spy-genre mixing with Realy Secret events behind the scenes; and Kim Philby was another fillip; pathetic character.

      And I'd like to know who put *Ship of the Damned* on list. Not bad, but seems more like straight action-oriented fiction; of course I only took a short look; it's in paper, and I may well buy it to give it a more detailed look. ---djb

      The first thing that will strike you when you read Bujold’s Curse of Chalion will be its readability: she keeps the twists and turns of the plot coming at a good pace, quick but not dizzying, letting you digest each one but not leaving you waiting too long for the next. Next, you may be impressed by the lively characters Bujold has created, especially Cazaril, your guide to the imaginary land of Chalion, a man raised in privilege but shaped by tragedy into a wiser, more compassionate, less hopeful man, broken in body and tested in spirit, who sometimes makes his old acquaintances uncomfortable with his new knowledge and perspective.

      Next, the complex and believable political situation of Chalion and its warring neighbors takes hold, leading you to expect a novel of political intrigue, spiced with a touch of romance. And it is all these things: a political intrigue; a beliveable and tastefully written romance; a novel of character; and a page-turner. But the real heart of the novel is theological and mythological, and this final ingredient in the rich stew Bujold has brewed makes The Curse of Chalion a book I expect to open many times again over the years. The novel really takes off when the gods enter the story:

      "[H]ave you really understood how powerless the gods are, when the lowest slave may exclude them from his heart? And if from his heart, then from the world as well.... If the gods could seize passage from anyone they wished, then men would be mere puppets. Only if they borrow or are given will from a willing creature do they have a little channel through which to act... [S]ometimes a man may open himself to them, and let them pour through him into the world."

      The often painful process of making room for the gods in the world is the key to the working out of the novel’s complex, well-crafted plot and central to its moral and spiritual force – which is considerable, in my opinion. Although the theological ideas of The Curse of Chalion are presented in polytheistic terms, I really think that I’d be a better Christian if I took these ideas more seriously. How many of us, of any religious persuasion, could put aside our own ambitions long enough to allow God (or the gods) to work through us? If we won't do this, do we have any right to cry out to God(s) for help in times of trouble? This book gave me a lot to think about during Holy Week, and I am grateful to whoever put this on the list of nominations for inducing me to read it. This is the first Bujold book I have read, and I will certainly keep my eye out for more of her work. I heartily recommend it to all on this list.

      Pauline J. Alama, Ph.D.


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