03/16/2004 Entry: "PALADIN OF SOULS by Bujold -- Preeti's Take"
This Bujold, I'm sorry to say, didn't excite me. It probably comes down to the fact that the story started off slowly and that the heroine, Dowager Royina Ista, wasn't charismatic and didn't seem to remain an underdog for more than a minute. She was too much of an observer of other people's interesting and dramatic lives until very late in the book. Ista's sly humor and ironic eye were appreciated, though, and I did like the fact, in abstract, that Bujold chose to portray the coming of age of a heroine aged 40 instead of a youngling.
The interesting part of the worldbuilding is the religion of the land, and the gods play an active role in events. Demons have started entering the world in large numbers, and Ista is led by one of the five gods to deal with the problem.
These supernatural aspects of the story grabbed my attention the most. I loved the theological system. Having a god choose you, imbue you with power, give you a life purpose, is quite a potent wish fulfillment fantasy, isn't it? I could tolerate it only because Ista had paid her dues, so to speak, by undergoing great misery for years and years first.
There was a romance for Ista, and it was nice but not memorable. The characters were well-drawn, and almost every one had his or her place in the world changed from the beginning of the book to the end. And the end was thrilling. Getting there was a bit of a slog, though.
BTW, I didn't read THE CURSE OF CHALION, so I can report that this book can stand alone, barring the fact that I never figured out what the curse of Chalion actually was. In any case, I recommend this book mildly because the plot really picked up towards the end.--Preeti