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
"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)
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.
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.
"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.
"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,
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