The Curse of Chalion (Chalion Series #1)

The Curse of Chalion (Chalion Series #1)

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Paperback(EOS Trade Pbk ed.)

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A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge — an act that will mark him as a tool of the miraculous . . . and trap him in a lethal maze of demonic paradox.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061134241
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/11/2006
Series: Chalion Series , #1
Edition description: EOS Trade Pbk ed.
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 107,630
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.02(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

One of the most respected writers in the field of speculative fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold burst onto the scene in 1986 with Shards of Honor, the first of her tremendously popular Vorkosigan Saga novels. She has received numerous accolades and prizes, including two Nebula Awards for best novel (Falling Free and Paladin of Souls), four Hugo Awards for Best Novel (Paladin of Souls, The Vor Game, Barrayar, and Mirror Dance), as well as the Hugo and Nebula Awards for her novella The Mountains of Mourning. Her work has been translated into twenty-one languages. The mother of two, Bujold lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them. He glanced over his shoulder. The well-worn track behind him curled up around a rolling rise, what passed for a hill on these high windy plains, before dipping again into the late-winter muck of Baocia's bony soil. At his feet a little rill, too small and intermittent to rate a culvert or a bridge, trickled greenly across the track from the sheep-cropped pastures above. The thump of hooves, jangle of harness, clink of bells, creak of gear and careless echo of voices came on at too quick a rhythm to be some careful farmer with a team, or parsimonious pack-men driving their mules.

The cavalcade trotted around the side of the rise riding two by two, in full panoply of their order, some dozen men. Not bandits — Cazaril let out his breath, and swallowed his unsettled stomach back down. Not that he had anything to offer bandits but sport. He trudged a little way off the track and turned to watch them pass.

The horsemen's chain shirts were silvered, glinting in the watery morning sunlight, for show, not for use. Their tabards of blue, dyes almost matching one with another, were worked with white in the sigil of the Lady of Spring. Their gray cloaks were thrown back like banners in the breeze of their passing, pinned at their shoulders with silver badges that had all the tarnish polished off today. Soldier-brothers of ceremony, not of war; they would have no desire to get Cazaril's stubborn bloodstains on those clothes.

To Cazaril's surprise, their captain held up a hand as they came near.The column crashed raggedly to a halt, the squelch and suck of the hooves trailing off in a way that would have had Cazaril's father's old horse-master bellowing grievous and entertaining insults at such a band of boys as this. Well, no matter.

"You there, old fellow," the leader called across the saddlebow of his banner-carrier at Cazaril.

Cazaril, alone on the road, barely kept his head from swiveling around to see who was being so addressed. They took him for some local farm lout, trundling to market or on some errand, and he supposed he looked the part: worn boots mud-weighted, a thick jumble of mismatched charity clothes keeping the chill southeast wind from freezing his bones. He was grateful to all the gods of the year's turning for every grubby stitch of that fabric, eh. Two weeks of beard itching his chin. Fellow indeed. The captain might with justice have chosen more scornful appellations. But...old?

The captain pointed down the road to where another track crossed it. "Is that the road to Valenda?"

It had been...Cazaril had to stop and count it in his head, and the sum dismayed him. Seventeen years since he had ridden last down this road, going off not to ceremony but to real war in the provincar of Baocia's train. Although bitter to be riding a gelding and not a finer warhorse, he'd been just as glossy-haired and young and arrogant and vain of his dress as the fine young animals up there staring down at him. Today, I should be happy for a donkey, though I had to bend my knees to keep from trailing my toes in the mud. Cazaril smiled back up at the soldier-brothers, fully aware of what hollowed-out purses lay gaping and disemboweled behind most of those rich facades.

They stared down their noses at him as though they could smell him from there. He was not a person they wished to impress, no lord or lady who might hand down largesse to them as they might to him; still, he would do for them to practice their aristocratic airs upon. They mistook his returning stare for admiration, perhaps, or maybe just for half-wittedness.

He bit back the temptation to steer them wrong, up into some sheep byre or wherever that deceptively broad-looking crossroad petered out. No trick to pull on the Daughter's own guardsmen on the eve of the Daughter's Day. And besides, the men who joined the holy military orders were not especially noted for their senses of humor, and he might pass them again, being bound for the same town himself Cazaril cleared his throat, which hadn't spoken to a man since yesterday. "No, Captain. The road to Valenda has a roya's milestone." Or it had, once. "A mile or three farther on. You can't mistake it." He pulled a hand out of the warmth of the folds of his coat, and waved onward. His fingers didn't really straighten right, and he found himself waving a claw. The chill air bit his swollen joints, and he tucked his hand hastily back into its burrow of cloth.

The captain nodded at his banner-carrier, a thick-shouldered...fellow, who cradled his banner pole in the crook of his elbow and fumbled out his purse. He fished in it, looking no doubt for a coin of sufficiently small denomination. He had a couple brought up to the light, between his fingers, when his horse jinked. A coin — a gold royal, not a copper vaida — spurted out of his grip and spun down into the mud. He stared after it, aghast, but then controlled his features. He would not dismount in front of his fellows to grub in the muck and retrieve it. Not like the peasant he expected Cazaril to be: for consolation, he raised his chin and smiled sourly, waiting for Cazaril to dive frantically and amusingly after this unexpected windfall.

Instead, Cazaril bowed and intoned, "May the blessings of the Lady of Spring fall upon your head, young sir, in the same spirit as your bounty to a roadside vagabond, and as little begrudged."

If the young soldier-brother had...

Table of Contents

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Curse of Chalion 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 114 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Award-winning science-fiction author Lois McMaster Bujold turns her pen to the fantasy genre, with breathtaking results. Lord Cazaril has been in turn courier, courtier, castle-warder, and captain; now he is but a crippled ex-galley slave making his way across a countryside reminiscent of Renaissance Spain, hoping to beg a warm hearth and a scullion¿s position from the noble patroness of his youth. But Fortune¿s wheel continues to turn for Cazaril, and he finds himself in short order promoted to the exalted¿and dangerous¿position of secretary-tutor to the Iselle, the beautiful, fiery sister of the heir to Chalion¿s throne. Amidst the decaying splendor and poisonous intrigue of Chalion¿s ancient fortress capital, Cazaril encounters both old enemies and surprising allies, as he seeks to lift the curse of misfortune that clings to the royal family of Chalion, and to all who come too close to them. While the novel can ¿ and should ¿ be appreciated as a rousing tale of romance and adventure, Bujold deftly weaves sophisticated speculation on the nature of free will and destiny in the guise of an intriguing mythology, underpinned by a constant subtle evocation of potent symbolic archetypes. Chalion is a beautifully constructed world, both warmly familiar and achingly distant; it breaths hints of shores yet unseen, stories yet to be told, without burdening the reader with a weary litany of exotic names and historical background. Supernatural power and events are carefully derived from the intrinsic nature of the world, displaying the simple inevitability of a chemical reaction ¿ with consequences just as devastating. Bujold, justly celebrated for her complex characterization, excels in her portrayal of the observant, sardonic, devoted Cazaril, and provides him with a rich and appealing cast of supporting characters. She avoids the twin temptations of making her heroes too nobly pure or her villains too blackly malevolent, allowing even the smallest character to emerge as recognizably human. For, with all the her grand canvas of nations and gods and fates, it is humanity ¿ in all its shame and glory ¿ that Bujold celebrates, and readers will be swept along to rejoice in their own. Ignore the mean-spirited professional reviewers above. *This* professional reviewer would say that _The Curse of Chalion_ is very possibly a masterpiece.
Cnichal More than 1 year ago
I couldn't stop reading this! It follows the requisites for fantasy. 1. Curses - check! 2. A broken hero to lift the curse - check! 3. Clever wit and intrigue! - check! I love how Lois McMaster Bujold, doesn't seem to know HOW to write a story with a leading lady, who is weak willed. There is plenty of cleaver dialog, with plots that are well laid out, and beautiful scenery. The story never felt rush or improbable; I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotion! All of their pain, my pain. Their fear my fear. But alas (thankfully!) their joy was my joy! I was just so full of feeling... I no longer have any words to describe them with... A must read! ....and re-read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Always fetch the free sample before purchasing a book. Then flip through all the pages to the end of the sample. I too found odd formatting for this book, however it affects only the table of contents. The book itself reads just fine. This is too good of a bookto pass up because a review complains of formatting. Also, you can verify that you're not purchasing a foreign language edition before you plunk down your money. I've seen complaints of that too. With regard to this book, it's one of my favorites. I highly recomend it. I recomend all of LMB's books for that matter, but especially this one. Posted from my Simple Touch.
fantaphile More than 1 year ago
The Curse of Chalion is a carefully planned and beautifully executed book that is witty, funny, though-provoking, exciting, and imaginative. The world of Chalion's pantheon is interesting and also well though-out, and its protagonists are believable and lovable. Although its title implies a cliched novel full of cursed princesses and evil witches, its story line rethinks, enhances and almost ridicules the stereotypical fantasy that tries to define the genre. I highly recommend it to all fantasy-lovers and fans of Bujold's other work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read Bujold's SF books and quite frankly thought they were contrived and shallow. Chalion completely reversed my judgement of her as an author. The book is fantastic thoughtful, well written, and exciting. This is a great book, so is the next one, Paladin of Souls. Definitely for an older reader (my opinion).
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by Lois McMaster Bujold and it will certainly not be the last. The Curse of Chalion draws you in from the first chapter with well developed characters and vivid descriptions and does not let you go. It is rare to find fantasy novels that are not parts of a series and even more rare to find a book of such high quality!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've long been a fan of Bujold's Vorkosigan series, but I never warmed to her other fantasy, The Spirit Ring, the way I did to the Miles stories.
This latest work by the three-time Hugo winner has convinced me that she just needed more practice in the genre to really hit her stride. Chalion is a real, 3-dimensional world, very loosely based on late-medieval Spain. The characters are (as always with Bujold) 3-dimensional and the hero's trials and soul-scars are achingly real.
Bujold's justly-famous wry humor has found a perfect vehicle in her hero, Cazaril, an ex-soldier, ex-courtier, ex-courier and ex-galley slave who wants only to sink into peaceful, quiet obscurity-- but for whom the gods have other plans.
Don't be discouraged by the apparently slow start of the book's first two chapters... there's a lot more going on there than you realize at the time, so pay close attention. You'll be glad you did later when events start accumulating momentum and the rabbits the author stuffed into hats in the first chapters start jumping out of them at surprising moments.
In addition to an interesting cast of characters and a lively and complex culture Bujold has created a fascinating religion with five very activist dieties who nevertheless are constrained by (among other things) their need for their human tools to offer their services willingly before the gods can overtly act through them.
This book is a good bit darker than many of her earlier works-- it has an emotional weight similar to that of Mirror Dance or Memory-- but she has the ability to put her characters in dark places without making you feel they have no hope.
Buy it. You won't regret the purchase.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I¿ve been reading Lois¿ Vorkosigan series just this side of forever. So, it didn¿t take much to get me to buy Curse of Chalion. And once again she delivered on an excellent, exciting, thinking novel. I loved the Spanish influenced background, which after a surfeit of celtic influenced fantasy was a breath of sweet exotic air. And plenty of interesting intrigue to go around. The main character, Cazaril, is a witty and fully fleshed person. Even the villains are fully developed. The central mystery of the story draws you in and won¿t let you put the book down.
hoddybook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a somewhat older man I'm sure I should not approve of Bujold's predeliction for teenage girls falling for older men ( albeit, very noble and worthwhile men ). I really enjoy her books. The Vor series explore prejudices about stature, deformity and ethnicity. The Knife series is about intolerance and suspicion. This, I've just started and looks to be exploring somewhat different things. Whatever she tackles, the stories have enough love interest, intrigue and complexity to keep me involved.
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Started a bit slow but good, realistic fantasy. Don't like young girls as plot element though.
Neale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just finished listening to the audio book version - it was brilliant. Its great to have a fantasy story that has little or no comparisons to Lord of the Rings. The characters were well developed and kept developing throughout the story. The story itself was simple, but had complexities built-in and the world was explained very well. Lots of unexpected twists and turns. I've found a new fantasy author who also does Sci-fi - so I'm doubly blessed.
Lymsleia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Note: "The Curse of Chalion" is the first of three books set in the same world, an award-winning sequel and a prequel, but I've read none of the others. So, Chalion can be read as a standalone; it's that self-contained.* "Five Gods, it really is you. My lord dy Cazaril. I bid you welcome to my house."Cazaril, protagonist and sole (3rd person) narrator of the book, has nowhere to go when he returns to the royacy of Chalion. Once a page, a courtier, a captain, castle warder and courier, the intrigues of a fellow noble gave him yet another role to play: For the past one and a half years, he has been a galley slave on an enemy country's ship and escaped only when he was washed ashore at the kingdom's coast.He turns to the Provincara, in whose household he once worked as a page, for help, wanting nothing but a place to stay, nothing but a chance to live, out of sight and forgotten by the rest of the world, but the lady has other plans.She wants him to take up yet another post, to be the tutor of her granddaughter, the princess Iselle (and to the princess's maid, Betriz), which should be an easy enough job for a man who can't get his broken body to do much else, but while Cazaril is grateful that she doesn't send him away, he also fears his new assignment: Being that close to the princess means that he will one day have to return to the royal court at Cardegoss, the very place where certain scheming nobles would be very interested in hearing that he is still alive...* "What's the matter with him?" - "A madman, I suppose." - "Well, he'll fit right in here, then, won't he..."Caz himself is easily the most memorable character of the book. He has one of the most distinctive narrative voices I've come across in a long time and you wouldn't mistake him for anyone else... it probably says quite a lot when he can, toward the end of the story, cheerfully inform us that the lady's nose is much more astonishing than a pebble and have it make perfect sense. I reread bits of the first two or three chapters before writing this post and seeing him think, in the state of mind he is in then, hurts, which is the highest praise I can give: He is, as the blurb on the back of the book so aptly puts it, "a man broken in body and spirit" and it's reflected in his narration as well. (There is another dialogue between him and his friend Palli that sums it up very well: "We slaves--" - "Stop that!" - "Stop what?" - "Stop saying that. We slaves. You are a lord of Chalion!") The good news is, we can only go up from there.Cazaril's character development is excellently done and takes quite a few unexpected detours along the way; he ends up a character who's both likeable and intriguing and I have to give props to the author for writing him in a way that makes sure we feel for him, that makes us love and cry and hurt and celebrate with him - but never, not once, are we supposed to pity him. (Thank you.) Caz has his flaws and he has his strengths, and it's been a while since I've enjoyed a "reluctant hero" type so much. I love him dearly.This does not mean that you'll easily forget about the other characters: They play their roles well, develop personalities of their own and form a strong ensemble cast to carry the rest of the book: Whether it's Iselle and Betriz, who have their own ideas about where they want the plot to go, Caz' childhood friend Palliar, who greets him most enthusiastically and refuses to keep his nose out of other people's business, especially when the people in question start complaining, the brothers Jironal, two formidable villains with intricate plans and a debt they'd rather not pay, "Mad Lady Ista" who is, of course, not half as mad as people say she is, or Umegat, a servant in charge of the royal menagerie and so much more than he seems to be at first sight (hint: he glows. No, really.). Or any of the other people running around in hat book. Orico, Teidez, dy Ferrej, dy Sanda, Bergon. You'll know all these strange names by heart by the t
palemantle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pros: Sympathetic major characters, well-wrought world, and elegant prose.Cons: The pace is turgid, and the 'magic' is more divine than arcane with random blessings, miracles, and curses thrown in occasionally.Summary: Decent, if slightly bland, fantasy fare.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is part of my effort to read all joint Hugo/Nebula Award winners. While this particular novel did not win the awards, it¿s sequel, ¿Palladin of Souls¿ did. I thought it best to read part one before taking on part two. That having been said, I¿m not sure I¿ll proceed to ¿Palladin¿. This genre, medieval fantasy, is not my favorite. While I thoroughly enjoyed J. R. R. Martin¿s Song of Ice and Fire (at least the first three installments), I found this to be far less effective. The setting of ¿Curse¿ is the Spanish medieval kingdom of Chalion. Many of the characters, titles and place names are heavily influenced by the supposed Spanish setting, which I found only slightly confusing. More troublesome is the complete absence of any kind of map. Whenever an author creates a world and frequently refers to geographic settings and various competing principalities and kingdoms, how can you fail to include a map?Again, making allowances for my general aversion to fantasy, this book was preferable to other works of fantasy which include magicians, elves, dwarves and dragons, in a cheap ripoff of Middle Earth. There is heavy emphasis on religion and spirituality, and a backdrop of magic that doesn¿t consume the story until a sequence near the end that just gets silly. All in all, probably a winner for medieval fantasy wonks, though as stated, I¿ve read better in the genre. I suspect I¿ll proceed to ¿Palladin¿, but more so from an obsessive compulsive desire to cross it off the Hugo/Nebula list than for any great need to see this story through.
Jaelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
James Lloyd's excellent narration contributed to my thorough enjoyment of the novel.
knielsen83 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has a lot of important characters, so it kept me on the fly most of the time, making me think... who is that.. flip back a few pages. the dy in front of every name is confusing. The plot was amazing though and enough to keep me interested and yearn for more. I like that the main character is not perfect, far from dastardly gorgeous and aging. It was a nice point of view and there was so much going on that I had to keep reading.
johnnyapollo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No I'm typically into Science Fiction rather than Fantasy, but have read quite a bit in this genre as well. I thought the world created by Bujold to be well thought out and very enticing. The storyline more than held my interest - at points I couldn't put the book down. Bujold really hits it out of the park with the second book [Paladin of Souls] however. It's funny how each book in this series is really only related by the fantasy-world in which they are written - there's only a passing connection between the characters in this book and the next, so each may be read and appreciated as a stand-alone.
omarius on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love Bujold. Love. What a great storyteller! I'd give her novels five stars except her wordsmithing is merely good and not brain-wrenchingly excellent. But on the content level, her characters are interesting, her pacing is a marvel, and her story is a page-turner. I haven't enjoyed SF this much since I was a kid.
librisissimo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best of Bujold's outstanding body of work. Cazaril is "Miles grown up"; Chalion is a realistically detailed country reminiscent of medieval Spain; the religious context is intriguing, and the concept that Caz "volunteered for his assignment" is sound.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't crush on Bujold's works quite as much as seems normal, but I do find them solidly enjoyable. My take on this new series is that I miss the breezy pace of the Miles books, but I think the characters in this are deeper and better. Call it a wash.
2wonderY on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good tight writing and then the occasional transcendant passage about personal qualities or theology. Wow!
justchris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I acquired this last week as part of my book-buying excursion, and then I decided to reread it, since it's a new addition to my library that I had read only once before, last year, as part of my Hugo-winner quest. Lois McMaster Bujold has won four Hugos for best novel, three for books in her Miles Vorkosigan science fiction stories, one for Paladin of Souls, the follow-up to The Curse of Chalion. Since she had won so many awards for noncontiguous storylines, I decided to just read all of it in order, digesting the Hugo winners along the way. I generally liked the stories and characters, and I certainly appreciated what she was trying to do with the science fiction. She's exploring an extremely patriarchal (sexist!), militaristic (ableist!) society from the perspectives of an extremely capable, strong female outsider (Cordelia, the mother of Miles) and a physically disabled young man (Miles Vorkosigan) while subverting the hero tropes of traditional space operas. She certainly has a way with dialogue, some fascinating ideas that she explores, and a great sense of the comic. But the books that won Hugos were by no means my favorites: Barrayar, The Vor Game, and Mirror Dance. Well, okay, maybe Barrayar. But the dinner scene in A Civil Campaign has to rank as one of the most memorable in my experience.But on to the fantasy series. Once again, while I liked Paladin of Souls okay, I preferred The Curse of Chalion. The protagonist, Lupe dy Cazaril, or Caz, is limping home a broken man. Well, he doesn't really have a home anymore, so he's hoping to find refuge in the home of the patron of his youth. He used to be a lord and knight but most recently was a slave. The widow of his former patron takes him in, sees his potential, and appoints him to tutor her granddaughter, a member of the royal family. Soon enough he is caught up in larger events involving his old enemies, court intrigues, and even the gods. Once again, good characters, interesting ideas, lots of action in the plot, nice dialogue. The things that make this book stand out: the limits of human endurance and discovering that they are much further than dreamed possible, the wisdom and perspective that comes with age and a life rich in experience, growing into leadership and understanding the dynamics of power, the strength of personal integrity to survive hardship and find the right path, the relationship between the divine/spiritual and the material planes and differences in theology and how they connect to cultural differences. The downsides: everyone's white, so no real racial diversity though some cultural diversity; most of the key players including the protagonist are men. The upsides: every woman character is strong and unique, even the ones that appear weak at first; some of the characters are gay--it is in fact a point of cultural/theological difference and a key plot element. And it is a very realistic portrayal of the emotional and physical damages that accumulate in war and servitude. The hero suffers but still succeeds in the end.
humouress on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'The Curse of Chalion' concerns a minor noble, Castillar Cazaril, who returns home after being rescued from a slave ship, and hopes to find an insignificant position within a castle where he served as a young page. He ends up (slight spoiler!) at the capital, in the king's palace itself, and has to find his way through the maze of political intrigue there.You're thrown in at the deep end, at the beginning, as the first chapter or so introduces us to Cazaril and slowly reveals facts about our hero which the main character, naturally, knows all along. And you have to work through a welter of Spanish sounding ranks, such as royas (kings), royinas (queens), royesses (princesses) and so on. It would also help to know that the five gods of their theology have a real presence, and are not just an abstract.Once I got those sorted out, though, I was captured by the book and couldn't wait to find out what happened next. There was always a sense of danger (political, physical, mental and spiritual) threatening the central characters, and I had to keep reading, to see who survived. Though the hero is a man, there are several strong female leads, as well, and the hero himself is somewhat flawed, being a bit older, at 36, and having suffered the ravages of war (i.e. not tall, dark and handsome). I liked the way all the threads, even seemingly insignificant ones, came together quite tidily, and I felt the theological premise was quite an unusual twist.I recommend it as a page turner.
jadelennox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is stellar. Bujold's tendency to feature older or disabled heroes makes my heart go pitter pat, and Caz is both. The in media res opening of the story yanks me right in, and because these characters have such vast respect for each other, the emotional heartstring tugging Bujold's notorious for is that much more successful. And the worldbuilding and the pantheon just shatter me. These gods are terrifying and awesome, in the literal sense of the word.
JohnNebauer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Her writing style does not seem fit fantasy too well, but the tale itself is interesting. The setting feels of medieval Spain (c. 12th and 13th centuries). There is action, theology, evil counsellors, duty and love in this quest to rid a royal family of a crippling curse, and to unite two kingdoms.