The second book in Bujold’s Chalion series, Paladin of Souls, follows the house of Chalion and their multi-deity religion and medieval political structure. But in a bold move for a fantasy series, Bujold abandons Cazaril and Iselle to chronicle Iselle’s formerly mad mother, Ista.
Though the curse was lifted from Ista three years before the book begins, she has remained a near-captive in her home, doted on by ladies-in-waiting and her aging mother. Upon the death of her mother, Ista breaks free from the castle Valenda and embarks on pilgrimage — the true purpose of which is to put as many miles between her and her warders as possible.
Ista’s small cortege meets disaster along the road and she begins to feel her journey is being manipulated by higher powers that lead her off her path and into a dark mystery. Her prophetic dreams return and soon her god-sight, which allows her to see past the world of matter and into the spiritual realm inhabited by souls and gods.
Though she resists the intrusion of the gods, she is unable to deny her fate, so Ista begins to unravel the mystery at Castle of Porifors. She struggles to sort through the tangle that is the gods’ will and the havoc created by escaped demons and earns potential forgiveness for her past sins.
It is in this novel that Bujold’s gift for writing is most beautifully displayed. Proof that winning the Hugo Award — fantasy and science fiction’s top honor — for Paladin of Souls is well deserved.
She paints masterful images with unexpected comparisons and unique phrases. The characters are multi-faceted and filled with emotion and conflict as they wind their way through the twists and turns in the plot.
Bujold never takes the easy way out, and when resolution is finally achieved, it comes at great sacrifice to all of the characters.
Rated: Moderate, for a few uses of mild language, descriptions of intense battles, allusions to sexual situations, and one mild sex scene.