Ok. Are you ready for this? I’ve been waiting days to tell you about this book and I’m excited to finally get to it! I picked up The Curse of Chalion knowing two things about it: 1) it’s a fantasy book and 2) the protagonist is a man in his mid-30s. I’ve really enjoyed reading about older protagonists lately and the little blurb on the book reminded me of FitzChivalry Farseer from Robin Hobb’s The Farseer trilogy.
The Curse of Chalion is good classic fantasy. It’s intriguing but slow in pace, and it’s the perfect book to pick up after an exhilarating page-turner. Just finished reading a dark book and need something lighter? This is your book. Curious about adult fantasy books but wary about violence/mature content? This is your book. Hesitant about fantasy because it’s your least read genre? This is your book.
Bujold’s conservative and hopeful tone to her writing is something rarely seen in fantasy these days. She doesn’t dwell on gory details and doesn’t write about extreme violence. The book is also pleasantly discreet about sexual content and if you prefer fade-to-black scenes like I do, you’d appreciate this.
I love a solid book that can stand on its own and The Curse of Chalion fits that bill. It gives you court intrigue, political schemes, mystery, and revenge all well contained with a straightforward plot.
What I loved most about The Curse of Chalion is its protagonist, Cazaril. He’s a broken man who comes back home after a life of slavery but instead of wallowing in self-pity or becoming hell-bent on anger and revenge, he wants to be left alone and live a quiet life. This man has had a hard life and now struggles between lying low and protecting those he cares about at the same time. He’s a war hero but he uses wit before brawn and his strength lies in diplomacy and well-considered actions. I found his kind, humble, and gentle nature so refreshing! Top that with a strong sense of loyalty and a dash of dry humour and you get one of the most mature and well-balanced characters in Caz. I know he sounds perfect, but he isn’t. Cazaril is haunted by fear, shame, and self-doubt which limit him in many ways. Compared to many protagonists, Cazaril seems ordinary but he’s so very human and that’s why I love him.
I was also impressed by how well Bujold handled the topic of religion in The Curse of Chalion. I’m weary of books showing religion in a negative light when there are also many positive things about it. The book deals with the worship of five gods and goddesses and Bujold draws a rich portrait of faith and spirituality that makes for a thoughtful reading experience.
No book is perfect though and the soft magic in The Curse of Chalion may disappoint avid fantasy readers. It certainly caught me off guard because of how long it took to show up. The slow pace also dragged in parts but it may be due to me being a liiittle impatient. I thought Bujold’s use of terms such as roya, royina, royesse for royalty were unnecessary when king, queen, and princess would have been sufficient. All things considered, this is all very minor compared to my overall enjoyment of the book.
I’m happy to say The Curse of Chalion is one of my favourite reads of the year. It reads like a Classic (if Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle collaborated) with the right dose of elements that make classic fantasy so well loved.