I was very excited at the prospect of a new Bujold novel, but slightly disappointed when I read it. It's not bad exactly - I'm not sure that Bujold i..Show More »s capable of writing a bad novel - it's just rather slow. It also feels like a bit of a rehash of the themes of some of her earlier novels.
So if you're new to Bujold I'd advise you not to start here. Try the first of her fantasy novels (The Curse of Chalion), or one of her scifi Vorkosigan novels (I'd recommend starting with Warrior's Apprentice).
If you've read every other Bujold novel then clearly you'll be desperate to read this, but prepare for mild disappointment. On the upside, her next novel (The Sharing Knife Volume 1 - not available on Audible at the time of writing this review) is a lovely read, so it's not as though she's lost her mojo for good.
Very cleverly constructed, balanced and interesting plot, enlivened by complex, humorous, often humane characters and pleasa..Show More »nt dialogue.
The reader is a pleasant surprise and the pace of the book is well done.
In greater depth:
It is always a pleasure to see such tightly plotted stories working so finely as a composition of ideas, characters and narrative. There were several moments where I was able to delight in the pleasure of an event subtly foreshadowed, the soft click of apparently random puzzle pieces clicking together. While the story is not as convoluted as an epic, or as meticulously involved as a character study, it certainly is witty and intelligent writing amongst the best in fantasy.
A charming and sympathetic male protagonist written with great panache is also a rare present to cherish and here, as with other works by talented novelists, is another to join the stable of memorable characters in fantasy literature.
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 unher..Show More »oic 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.