Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Even though this one is set in the same universe and there are crossover references and characters, this novel is quite different from The Curse of Chalion, in both situation, location, and MC's. Don't let that dissuade you, because this book kicks some serious butt. Literally, for there's even a WAR!
Enter Ista, the dowager mother, considered mad but really just god-ridden, bored and desiring a bit of action on the side. (Get your mind out of the gutter. Yes, she does have some romantic feels, on the side, but it's more the case of a woman on a mission of self-discovery, travel, and understanding.) And just because she becomes the Paladin of a God and becomes one of my most favorite female protagonists in fantasy literature, full of rounded personality, wry humor, natural desires and surprising reactions to what ought to be some horrific reveals, should never downplay the fact that when push comes to shove, she really knows how to kick ass. Need I say that the reveals and the novel's climax are amazing? Probably not. The novel is a widespread favorite of a lot of people and it won the Hugo in 2004.
Of course, she's not the only great character in the novel. I have to say I've grown quite fond of the Bastard. Liss has quite a personality, too. :)
I'm fascinated at just how much this novel does NOT feel like a pilgrimage of saints. Or how the portrayal of so much death does NOT feel strange or odd, but instead feels like a spur to great things. I was frankly amazed at feeling a great deal of awe at so many of the otherwise fantasy-normal events that were twisted on their sides to appear as something completely different than I'm used to.
I could just chalk that up to Bujold being Awesome Bujold, but I think it's something more than that. She manages to turn something that ought to be epic fantasy with battles and demons and mages with blood flying everywhere into something personal and revealing and surprising, and that isn't something that anyone should take lightly. It takes a brilliant writer to pull that off, and she's got the chops. :)
Beautiful novel. :)
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