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Paladin of Souls | [Lois McMaster Bujold]

Paladin of Souls

Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets, for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road, escape, beckons...A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of Chalion.
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Publisher's Summary

Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets, for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road, escape, beckons...A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of Chalion.

Yet something else is free, too, something beyond deadly. To the north lies the vital border fortress of Porifors. Memories linger there as well, of wars and invasions and the mighty Golden General of Jokona. And someone, something, watches from across that border: humans, demons, gods.

Ista thinks her little party of pilgrims wanders at will, but whose? When Ista's retinue is unexpectedly set upon not long into its travels, a mysterious ally appears, a warrior nobleman who fights like a berserker. The temporary safety of her enigmatic champion's castle cannot ease Ista's mounting dread, however, when she finds his dark secrets are entangled with hers in a net of the gods' own weaving.

In her dreams, the threads are already drawing her to unforseen chances, fateful meetings, fearsome choices. What the inscrutable gods commanded of her in the past brought her land to the brink of devastation. Now, once again, they have chosen Ista as their instrument. And again, for good or for ill, she must comply.

©2003 Lois McMaster Bujold; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"Rich in sumptuous detail and speculative theology....This engaging installment of Chalion's mythical history whets the appetite for new marvels yet to come." (Publishers Weekly)
"Bujold couldn't characterize badly if threatened with a firing squad, and what really keeps one turning the pages is the fascinating cast of characters, not that the plot is anything to sneeze at." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (46 )
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  •  
    Jane Sheffield, United Kingdom 31/08/2006
    Jane Sheffield, United Kingdom 31/08/2006 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    174
    ratings
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    48
    30
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    3
    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    This is a really wonderful book, and it's great to find it unabridged on Audible. It spins an absorbing story around a minor and seemingly very unheroic character from *The Curse of Chalion*, the widowed Ista (note: you do not have to have read *The Curse of Chalion* to enjoy this, although you may well want to read it afterwards.)
    Ista is 40 and seemingly rather defeated by life, having suffered the death of her husband and son and a prolonged bout of divinely-induced madness. She decides to set out on a pilgrimage to escape from her confined life at court, but quickly finds that the gods have not yet done with her. It's the kind of narrative that keeps you guessing - just when you think you've sussed out where it's all headed it suddenly takes a sharp turn in another direction. Nevertheless it comes to a very satisfying conclusion. I find it the kind of book that's a real pleasure to re-read because it's fascinating to see how the author sets up plot and character developments a long way in advance.
    I suppose my one minor quibble is that the narrator sometimes makes Ista sound a bit too feeble and self-pitying, particularly to begin with. That said, she is a character who grows in strength and self-confidence in the course of the novel, so presumably the narrator was trying to reflect this. Other than this I found the narrator excellent: the different characters are voiced very effectively, and she manages to distinguish between the different levels of narration (narrator's voice, Ista's internal thoughts, Ista's speech, etc.) very clearly.
    Overall, this is a strong character-driven novel with a clever and satisfying plot. I thoroughly recommend it, even if you're not normally into fantasy novels.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Hawthorn, Australia 26/07/2010
    Michelle Hawthorn, Australia 26/07/2010 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "First class tale & reader!"

    At 16 hours of first class story, this audiobook is excellent value for money. I've read Paladin of Souls several times, but I got something new out of hearing it read. I'm new to audio books: they're great it you want to do something while you read, and I'm finding they alter the way you consume a story, so you notice things you'd missed before. A lot of Bujold's books are read by actors with strong American accents, which doesn't fit the story to me. Kate Reading has an attractive English accent, is a clear reader - I always know which character is speaking - and gives a great characterisation of Ista, the protagonist,

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catriona Lincoln, United Kingdom 22/05/2010
    Catriona Lincoln, United Kingdom 22/05/2010 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    47
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    "engrossing"

    There is something about Lois McMaster Bujold's books which keeps drawing me back. I've read this one twice as hard copy and made myself give a decent gap of more than a year before downloading it to listen to. I was not disappointed. The narration is very good. Her characters are interesting (perhaps with the exception of Ferda and Foy, as I could never remember which was which) and the world she has devised is thought provoking. It's definitely not a sword and sorcery style of fantasy, but one in which fantastic elements blend credibly into the more 'mundane' aspects of the plot.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Chipping Norton, United Kingdom 28/08/2010
    Deborah Chipping Norton, United Kingdom 28/08/2010 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    68
    ratings
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    "Loved it - now what do I listen to?"

    Lovely! Beautifully read, and a steady development in plot that carries you onwards through the book reluctant to take a break. I will track down more of Ms Bujold's work - I thoroughly enjoyed The Curse of Chalion as well. Highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-4 of 4 results
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  • Madeleine
    London, United Kingdom
    29/03/09
    Overall
    "Superb"

    I had never read any other books by this author, but this one drove me to find her others.

    Paladin of Souls was a thoroughly enjoyable listen. The characters are extremely well-crafted, the dialogue is written with a very deft hand and the plotting is truly satisfying. It was delightful to stumble across a quick-witted, sharp-tongued and vibrant middle-aged woman as the heroine of a fantasy novel where so often the genre presents the reader with hopeful young warriors or plucky young maidens.

    I truly enjoyed it from start to finish and the reader was excellently suited to the story.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Scottsdale, AZ, United States
    02/04/05
    Overall
    "Excellent Sequel"

    This is a first class sequel to a first class story (The Curse of Chalion). One could listen to them out of order but would miss a lot, because the author spends a lot of words in the first book creating a unique theology that provides the fantastic aspects of the story.

    The plot is a standard "quest", set in a preindustrial world organized along feudal lines, but the characters are likable, and this writer is as good at involving the reader in the story as any writer I've encountered (check out her Miles Vorkosigan adventures). The main character (like the author) is female, and to my (male) mind, she is a believable heroine who succeeds in her quest in a way that would not make you think of Sir Galahad (or Gandalf for that matter.

    If you like fantasy, you'll love this

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Darjeeling
    New York State
    09/05/08
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    This is one of my favorite Lois McMaster Bujold novels--which is high praise, since her body of work is so fine.

    The reader is marvelous. Each character has a distinct "voice," creating nearly an audio play for the listener. When I re-read the novel, it is now Kate Reading's voice I hear. Her voicing of the main character is particularly fine.

    Fantasy and Science Fiction are my favorite genres, and I've read widely, so I know all too well that the bookstores and library shelves are jam-packed with beautiful heroines...aged 18 or so. As a reader in my forties, this makes me a little wistful, so reading Ista's story was a delight. There are few compelling "mature" female lead characters in fantasy literature. If it weren't for Ista and Granny Weatherwax, I'd just have to start reading--gasp--REALISTIC fiction. Though Bujold's richly imagined worlds are real enough to the reader.

    Women characters who THINK! Woohoo!

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Kristen
    Boca Raton, FL, USA
    22/04/05
    Overall
    "Good as a sequel, good stand-alone too"

    While I agree with the other reviewers that you'll do better listening to The Curse of Chalion first, this is not the conclusion of a cliff-hanger. Both books stand alone, with different protagonists and different plot lines.
    The plot here is a mixed bag - sometimes fast, sometimes slow. At times I caught on to the next event almost too fast; at other times I was completely surprised.
    The strengths of the book are the protagonist, the style, and the religion Bujold creates.
    The protagonist begins as a depressed and cynical middle-aged woman, yet someone one can sympathize with - she becomes something far more, and far happier . . . while remaining entertainingly cynical.
    The style is nearly word-perfect, creating a magical, courtly world unlike our own, but peopled by real individuals with distinctive strengths and weaknesses.
    The religion is complicated, yet plausible (and I speak as a professor of religious studies). More than that, though, Bujold treated the heroine's spiritual journey in ways that made me think, and enriched my own spiritual life, speaking as a liberal Christian.
    The narrator is a woman with a British accent, very good.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Ryan
    Los Angeles, CA, United States
    06/07/05
    Overall
    "Entertaining"

    I will agree with some previous reviews, the book does drag in a few parts. However, if you enjoyed the first book you will enjoy the sequel. It can also be a stand alone if you have not read the first novel.

    The narator is great, she does a great job is articulating the different characters..and who doesn't love a British narator. Ista also seems to be well suited for a British accent.

    There are parts that will just make you laugh and overall it is a good listen.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Pete
    Forest Hills, NY, USA
    20/04/05
    Overall
    "Quality Fun"

    Lois McMaster Bujold is a name I heard alot of over the past 4 years from a friend of mine. I never read any of her work. What a moron I was. The Curse of Chalion was exceptional and very engaging fantasy fare. Bujold stole my heart away with that tale and made me easily get deeply involved with her characters and their fates. Paladin of Souls returns to that coffer of magic and gives us all another excellent journey. Bujold's strengths are most evident here. Sharp witted characters, soulful ponderings, a mysterious journey. Man, did I have fun with this one. You will too. But listen to The Curse of Chalion first because you will miss out on many continuities within the growing world of Chalion. Noone should deny themselves that amazing book anyway. Kate Reading does a superb job with the narration/characterization. Her work on Jordan's Wheel of Time series had made me a fan long ago, but I was surprised by her british accent during this read. It seems she has successfully masked it for the Jordan books (understandably) but it is a joy to hear in Paladin of Souls.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Jacqueline
    Stafford Springs, CT, USA
    28/07/06
    Overall
    "Ista Goes on Pilgrimage!"

    LMB's beautiful prose shines throughout this fantasy of a 40 year old noblewoman who finds she yet has purpose in life. After years of seeming madness -- the result of being god-touched in her youth -- Ista shakes her cosseting caregivers off and finds a new path for herself. Fans of The Curse of Chalion will meet other secondary characters from the first book. Newcomers can read this as a stand alone -- but will benefit from reading Curse of Chalion too. I like how crusty and un-nice Ista is; yet always a lady and true to the inner good in others. Listeners will enjoy her wry observations about human motivation. On a level of pure plot, have faith, the story begins slow in order for you to appreciate the cost to Ista of change and action.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Pan
    Union, CA, USA
    27/04/05
    Overall
    "A Must Read/Hear"

    Bujold has been a favorite of mine because of her Vorkosigan Series, which I highly recommend. However, I must admit that the Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls top even those works. This book is refreshingly different from the traditional fantasy stories where the hero somehow finds some source of unstoppable power. Rather, it seems somewhat more... believable. The story takes place in a wonderfully fascinating world, and the characters in it are delightful. Kate Reading provides an excellent voice for the book. I do, however, highly recommend reading the Curse of Chalion before enjoying this novel.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • chris
    Kelowna, BC, Canada
    26/04/05
    Overall
    "Slow start, but finishes with an original bang"

    This sequel stands alone, with the main characters from the previous book mentioned mainly in passing, and the necessary background is recapped for the reader. Three of the secondary characters from that book become the main protagonists from this one.

    Right from the beginning, the story is unusual. The narrator is female, and the protagonist is a middle-aged female. Her plight is actually rather mundane and so is her solution to it. For a long time, not much happens. I would have found it dull if it wasn't for the excellent narrative and dialogue. There is an small hint early on that there are bigger events to come, but it really is small.

    Events do start to pick up eventually, and then start going in wholly unexpected directions. Toward the end I was eagerly awaiting what happened next. As in the previous book, Bujold has come up with a story more original than any I have read in a while. The protagonist is likeable but not as much as in the previous book.

    The narrator is excellent. Her voice is deep and rich and she has a wide range of voices.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Mysticalsister
    San Francisco, CA, United States
    30/10/09
    Overall
    "This is a beautiful book."

    Paladin of Souls is gorgeously written and narrated. It tells the story of a high born woman who's gifts make her seem mad to those around her. She's kept 'safe' for her own good, but she contrives to escape her gilded cage and travel. The story is filled with action and magic, and while it's not necessary to read the first book (Curse of Chalion), to enjoy this one, it's highly recommended. (Besides, the first book is just as amazing, so why would you want to miss it?)

    For those who haven't read Lois McMaster Bujold, I'm a newbie, too. I started with her Sharing Knife series, which is exquisite. After 6 books, I've fallen hard for her prose. She is now one of my top five favorite writers of all time.

    I've heard so much about her Vor books in other reviews, I almost started them, but I've had a difficult time figuring out which book comes first. A kind reviewer provided a list (sorry, don't know his name). I insert it here. (Miles, here I come!)

    - The Warrior's Apprentice
    - The Vor Game
    - Cetaganda
    - Brothers in Arms
    - Mirror Dance (1994)
    - Memory (1996)
    - Komarr (1998)
    - A Civil Campaign
    - Winterfair Gifts
    - Diplomatic Immunity


    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
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