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Reread: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (World of the Five Gods #1)

Image result for curse of chalion by lois mcmaster bujold


This is not the first time I have read this book. Not even the second. My best estimate would be about fourth or fifth – it’s simply one of those comfort reads I keep returning to again and again when I need a pick-me-up. The familiarity, the characters…it’s one of those books that never grow old and I feel I owe it at least a short review.

Any man can be kind when he is comfortable. I’d always thought kindness a trivial virtue, therefore. But when we were hungry, thirsty, sick, frightened, with our deaths shouting at us, in the heart of horror, you were still as unfailingly courteous as a gentleman at ease before his own hearth.

After years of war followed by months spent as a galley slave, Cazaril returns to Valenda, where he served as a page when he was a boy, now a broken man. Looking for a lowly position, he is instead appointed as a secretary to the young princess (or royesse) Iselle. Though the story slowly grows more epic in scope, concerning not just Cazaril’s past, but curses, gods, and the fate of the whole kingdom, it remains personal and character-focused throughout. The pacing is rather slow and languid, but I found that it fit the story rather well.

And Cazaril is one of the most likable characters I encountered in fantasy. He’s loyal, kind, level-headed, experienced, and no matter what life throws at him, he stays true to himself and never gives up. He’s also no longer young and struggles with various aches and pains regularly, which is somewhat unusual for a fantasy protagonist, but a welcome change. I admit I have a weakness for stories of characters who are recovering from some horrible ordeal (The Sparrow’s present day storyline hit much similar notes), but even so, I found him impossible not to like and cheer for.

The setting is faintly Spanish-inspired, which is reflected in the titles and the names. There’s no real magic per se, but there are very real gods, including curses, blessings, and miracles related to them. And with gods and religion being one of the major themes, there’s a lot of deus ex machina and convenient coincidences. It didn’t bother me because it fit the concept well and didn’t seem out of place, but if you look for a potential deal-breakers, there you go.

Enjoyment: 5/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: fans of character-focused fantasy, those looking for uplifting books, books that are relatively low magic, standalone epic fantasy books, and/or older protagonists
Not recommended to: fans of fast-paced stories, those who hate deus ex machina, content warning: discussion of rape (nothing on-screen)

11 thoughts on “Reread: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (World of the Five Gods #1)”

  1. ooooh, slow-based + character-focused + mentions of gods reminds me of the Queen’s Thief series, which I absolutely adored. (though in that one religion is secondary but significant, and the plot is basically just political machinations.) I’ll definitely have to check this one out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m actually really happy that this is an uplifting fantasy book! The majority of fantasy that I’ve read is usually quite dark, so this would be a nice change of pace. And I love that it’s a comfort read for you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dark seems like something of a trend in recent adult fantasy, yeah. I’ve been mostly leaning towards medium to lighter stuff lately, the occasional dark book still slips through, but I avoid the extreme end (Prince of Nothing is a book I’ll never read for example). Got tired of grimdark.

      I like this one because while the MC goes through a lot of shit, there’s always an undercurrent of hope and being a decent person counts for something. In a similar vein, I’d recommend another of my comfort reads, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Arden. More inexperienced protagonist, but it’s another political intrigue fantasy book where kindness isn’t weakness.


      1. Yeah, I mean, I fine with darker fantasy, but…grimdark in particular is just too much for me, tbh.

        Ohh, thank you for the other rec. I’ll be sure to add both books to my TBR!

        Liked by 1 person

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