06/01/2005 Entry: "Bujold's THE HALLOWED HUNT--Not Destined for Dog-Eared Status (Suzanne)"
I read Bujold's very satisfying fantasy, THE HALLOWED HUNT, over the weekend.
The story is told mostly from the point of view of Lord Ingrey, a kings' man who is sent to retrieve Lady Ijada, a woman who has killed the King's heir while he was in the act of raping her. During his investigation, he finds that the prince was using a powerful ancient shamanistic spell to take on the spirit of an animal, and during the rite, as Ijada killed him, the spell went wrong and the leopard's spirit entered her instead. Ingrey can sense the spirit in her because he carries the spirit of a wolf--a burden in a society that has supposedly rooted out the old ways and killed those who tried to maintain them. On their journey to the kingdom's seat, Ingrey falls in love with Ijada and must find a way to save her from execution for the murder of the prince.
And this is just the beginning of the story.
Bujold is very good at building her worlds, and this one has very intricate religious and political layers. As always, she has crafted a gracefully written, intricately plotted and ultimately satisfying fantasy novel. It's a page-turner.
Saying all that, I must admit that for me there is something missing in all three of the books in her fantasy series. I find her Vorkosigan universe much more believable (if no less fantastic). I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it is the freedom that the sf genre gives her that the tropes of medieval fantasy don't. There's just something missing. And it's not that I want another "Miles" adventure--I'd be perfectly happy to have her concentrate on another character on Barrayar, with Miles on the periphery. The best way I can compare is to say that I enjoyed "Hallowed" very much, but it won't go on my keeper shelf, where reside every one of the (dog-eared from re-reads) Vorkosigan books.--Suzanne