“Paladin of Souls” by Lois McMaster Bujold

I unfortunately waited too long since reading this book to review it. Certain details have faded from memory due to time or have been crowded out by the many other things I’ve read since then. As such, this review will be shorter and less detailed than I’d like, which will probably appeal to some, but I love being able to reread my review years later and remember nearly everything I thought of the book.


Genre

Fantasy

Series

World of the Five Gods, book 2

Pubbed

2003

From Goodreads

In a land threatened by treacherous war and beset by demons, royal dowager Ista, released from the curse of madness and manipulated by an untrustworthy god, is plunged into a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm. (Goodreads)


My Thoughts (some spoilers for the first book)

Paladin of Souls is the second novel in the World of Five Gods series, a fantasy series that begins with the novel Curse of Chalion, which is one of my favorites. This installment focuses on a different character — Ista, who is now dowager royina of Chalion. The story picks up some years after the events in Curse of Chalion. I believe Iselle, Ista’s daughter who is now royina (queen) of Chalion, her husband, and Cazaril, who is now chancellor, are well into their roles and Iselle is either trying to have or has had a child (one of those details I can’t remember). Most importantly, Ista’s mother, the dowager Provincara dy Baocia, has recently passed.

However, everyone still believes Ista is mad and treats her as a delicate object about to break or go off at any moment. Feeling smothered by all who care for her, Ista decides to embark on a pilgrimage to escape her confinement. Due to her past experiences with the gods that has left her much wracked with guilt, Ista hopes and plans to avoid them despite the troubling dreams she has been experiencing. But, despite her efforts, her pilgrimage brings her in contact with demons and the gods and leads her to learn of a threat to the kingdom from the Jokonans and acknowledge her budding sainthood.

Unlike my experience with the Curse of Chalion, it took a while for me to warm to Ista and the pace of Paladin of Souls. Unfortunately, I started it hoping for a fast-paced read, but I was forced to slow down and be patient with Ista. Thankfully, I was willing to do so because I’d have otherwise missed out on a great story, one I ended up favoring.

As with the Curse of Chalion, we are once again presented with an older protagonist from whose perspective we read. Ista is a mother who has suffered losing a child and feeling despair that she’s unable to lift the heavy curse she inherited when she married into the royal family, a curse that will also affect her children. But even after the curse is lifted, she still suffered from the heavy guilt she feels regarding the actions she took when attempting to lift that curse. I loved that the journey she goes on enables her to be herself, become a better version of herself, and to be cleared of that guilt.

This story also was not what I expected and at times took me by surprise with its romantic turns, which shouldn’t have been that surprising since there is some romance (I guess) in the first book. I do like how the various plots developed and I gradually became hooked as the stakes became higher as the characters encounter more demons and one of my favorites even contracted one. I became very worried there since it’s near impossible to remove a demon from a person’s body without harming or killing the human as well.

I also love that we get more worldbuilding in this novel as well. Paladin of Souls digs a little deeper and gives us more information about the gods and how the demons came into the world and how the Bastard came about. This worldbuilding is one of the reasons why I had to regard this as a favorite. I just love where the series seem to be going. I love Ista’s development, especially regarding her sainthood and how angry she is at the gods that when she prays her prayers tend to be one of rage. Her sarcasm in regards to the gods strongly reminds me of Cazaril (speaking of which, it cracked me up that the chancellor seal he chose for his documents is a crow perched on the letters CAZ, lol!). Yep, the humor too is another reason why I enjoy reading this series.

This one is another great installment in the series. I enjoyed the story, admired the writing, and was entertained by the characters (the brothers Ferda and Foix, Liss, Learned dy Cabon… I enjoyed reading about them all). I look forward to reading the next in the series and rereading this one, too. I think this series will be one I’ll enjoy returning to again and again, like a comfort read.

Overall: ★★★★★

It starts out slow and took a while to hold my interest, but once I was hooked, it was hard to part from the book. I enjoyed reading this one and look forward to trying more by the author.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

I highly recommend the series.

13 thoughts on ““Paladin of Souls” by Lois McMaster Bujold

  1. I haven’t started this series even despite so many people recommending it, idk, maybe because the covers look so old fashioned 😉 But I’m putting it on my TBR, I need to check at least one of her books and the Curse of Chalion seems like a good place to start 🙂

    Like

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