Up next: “The Curse of Chalion” by Lois McMaster Bujold
Apparently continues on into a series, but this book is pretty contained and stands alone just fine.
Cazaril is a broken man returning finally to his homeland after escaping a life as an oar-slave on a pirate galley. Having nothing and fearing discovery by those he suspected of selling him into slavery, he makes his way to the household he had lived in as a child, serving as a page. The lady of the household set him to the job of secretary-tutor to the young princess Iselle. It is a job Cazaril takes with some reluctance, but that he grows to enjoy.
Until it takes him to Cardegoss, the court of Chalion, where nobles plot and scheme and Cazaril’s enemies hold positions of great power. Cardegoss, where Cazaril finds himself struggling to protect Iselle from the court’s machinations, and Chalion from a curse slowly coming to light.
The beginning of this book is very slow. It kind of drags quite a while until suddenly there’s a turning point and everything starts happening really quickly. Once you get to the part with the pig, everything flies by and you read 2/3 of the book before you realize.
There were parts of the story that I liked. I enjoyed Caz’s somewhat reluctant development into a major player. Poor guy just wanted to live a quiet life, but he gets all tangled up in curses and gods and shit. I also enjoyed Iselle and Betriz’s characters; they were clever and kind and thankfully listened to Caz. So often stories use the refusal of teenage characters to listen to ‘voices of authority’ as a way to introduce conflict and force plot. I was glad that these two were smart enough to see the value in Caz’s counsel.
I appreciated the ending of the story, too, though some might complain that everything’s wrapped up too nicely. The path is laid out from the first page of the book, is it actually was really satisfying to see everything come together in the end, and even what seemed like small details became important.
The style of the book feels very old. I was surprised to see that the publishing date was 2002 (I think?). I honestly expected it to be in the 80s, maybe early 90s. It has an older sort of feel to it, though I’m not entirely sure what had it so. Maybe the cadence, the way the story is told? I don’t know. But it might be a style that some people can’t get into.
Some mentions of rape. There’s a fair amount of violence.