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The Curse of Chalion (2001)

por Lois McMaster Bujold

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaDiscussões / Menções
4,8261732,308 (4.25)1 / 594
Lord Cazaril has been, in turn, courtier, castle-warder, and captain; now he is but a crippled ex-galley slave seeking nothing more than a menial job in the kitchens of the Dowager Provincara, the noble patroness of his youth. But Cazaril finds himself promoted to the exalted and dangerous position of tutor to Iselle, the beautiful, fiery sister of the heir to Chalion's throne. Amidst the decaying splendor and poisonous intrigue of Chalion's ancient capital, Cazaril is forced to confront not only powerful enemies but also the malignant curse that clings to the royal household, trapping him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death for as long as he dares walk the five-fold pathway of the gods.… (mais)
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4.5 stars
( )
  danielskatz | Dec 26, 2023 |
If I have any regrets about The Curse of Chalion, it's that I went into it with such high expectations. This is a beloved book, one that, if you express a preference for fantasies that favor courtly intrigue over magic, will be recommended again and again.

Chalion was very nearly a hate-read for me, but I suppose I'm glad I persevered, as the ending did soften my attitude to the novel as a whole. This novel follows Cazaril, a warrior nobleman who's been brought low in the world and, as the teenaged Royesse Iselle's advisor, saves the kingdom and regains his rightful status. It's a familiar story about a disenfranchised man coming back into his power, and if it felt fresh in 2001, it's only because popular fantasy fiction had been so dependent on a very narrow set of stock protagonists, princess ingenues and assistant pig-keepers.

It's a linear story—refreshingly so, relying on strong execution rather than twists. Bujold surprises us with an interesting take on magic, one that's rooted in miracle and faith. Cazaril's journey is revealed to be one of spiritual submission rather than material uplift, genuinely upending my expectations for the character. There's some intriguing gender stuff: intimations of male sexual trauma, an interrogation of masculine heroism, a dash of Immaculate Conception-adjacent body horror.

And yet I have rarely read a novel about court politics that was less interested in politics. The antagonists are flat and pulp-y, so insubstantial that they're not even all that fun to hate. They certainly don't provide the kind of complexity that makes for a really fun melodrama of manners. This flatness extends to the way identity is treated in the novel. Period-typical racism against our Moorish/Turkish stand-ins is never fully explored, let alone challenged; the existence of Umegat, our model refugee fleeing a wickedly intolerant enemy state, only reinforces the characters' prejudices. Oh, and don't expect any upstairs-downstairs shenanigans, as literally every named character of import who appears at first glance to be lowborn turns out to be an aristocrat or a saint.

I think Bujold is trying to do something interesting by making this an essentially domestic story—Cazaril is not a politician; he cares not a whit for the welfare of the kingdom and is purely devoted to Iselle out of personal compassion and loyalty. This is supposed to be feminist, I think? I would certainly prefer my political operatives to care less about personal glory and more about the welfare of teenage girls, but even if you can get behind the book's "princesses in charge" white feminism, we're left with the impression that no one in this court is all that bright and that Cazaril, for all his intelligence and education, has absolutely no interest in the wider political implications of his queenmaking activities.

I haven't even gotten to the most common complaint about this book, the age gap in its central romance (35-year-old Cazaril is paired with a literal teenager). In this, as in all else, the small-c conservatism of this novel wants to have it both ways. It wants a veneer of realism (age gaps were hIsToRiCaLlY aCcuRaTe), but it also wants to believe that Cazaril's good intentions are enough to obviate the structural inequities of the time period it's portraying. Nevertheless, the novel provides its own evidence that there is harm in him lusting after his sixteen-year-old pupil's best friend, including a truly bonkers passage in which he repeatedly ogles both of them when they're swimming, something that their female chaperone thinks is funny and not gross(??)

The Curse of Chalion isn't an unsuccessful novel, and if I was feeling (cattily) kind, I might concede that it's honestly too lightweight to deserve the weight of criticism I've heaped upon it. I do think that there's a place for small-c conservative genre fiction, because the reality is that most of us live small-c conservative lives and at most can aspire to personal transformation. But the failure of these kinds of novels is their dishonesty: not only do they declare that the world can't change, but they refuse to map the contours of the world as it is.
1 vote raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
What a happy re-read, lucky me. I had also managed to forget the book completely - except for the very beginning, the ending (the characters that end up together, that is), and that there was some kind of curse, lol. Obviously, it added to my enjoyment.

I really cannot thank Lois McMaster Bujold enough for her books. The writing is as great as always, creating characters that are vivid and alive. The plot is tightly and cleverly crafted. It is also taking its time at the very beginning, which is fine - you enjoy the worldbuilding and the details, getting to know the characters.

How can broken people heal? How do you remain human in horrible situations? How do you grow when thrust into a new role? What happens when good deeds snowball in unexpected and oh so right ways? I love how the answers are woven into the book.

I am left with a lovely “good book hangover” :) ( )
  Alexandra_book_life | Dec 15, 2023 |
I don't quite have the words to describe this book and how it made me feel... Really lovely. ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 22, 2023 |
Almost cozy fantasy? It’s a slow burn, character building world of political intrigue a la GOT but without the gore, incest or rape. ( )
  dianafrurip | Aug 17, 2023 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 171 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Ultimately, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It drags very slightly in the middle, but that’s almost unnoticeable -- and the only flaw I can pick out in this book. If you’re a fantasy fan, pick this one up. If you’re a Vorkosigan fan but have been reluctant to try a Bujold that’s not a Vorkosigan book, don’t be. Take the plunge and pick this one up. You won’t regret it. Bujold’s hit another home run.
 
I really enjoy the way religion is portrayed in this book; I like the way its effect on the details of daily life have been thought through, including what being a saint might actually be like, and I also find the religion itself quite appealing. The problem, if you consider it a problem, is that theology ends up tying the plot into a very neat circle—too neat from some people, and I confess it bothered me somewhat as well, though I can see how it follows from the world's internal logic. If you're the kind of person that this sort of thing really bothers, don't read Chalion. Otherwise, I strongly recommend it.
adicionada por tcgardner | editarSteelypips, Kate Nepveu (Apr 18, 2002)
 

» Adicionar outros autores (7 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Lois McMaster Bujoldautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Beekman, DougArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bowers, DavidArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
James, LloydNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Stone, SteveArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them.
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Originally published by Eos, (c2001), ISBN: 0380979012
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Lord Cazaril has been, in turn, courtier, castle-warder, and captain; now he is but a crippled ex-galley slave seeking nothing more than a menial job in the kitchens of the Dowager Provincara, the noble patroness of his youth. But Cazaril finds himself promoted to the exalted and dangerous position of tutor to Iselle, the beautiful, fiery sister of the heir to Chalion's throne. Amidst the decaying splendor and poisonous intrigue of Chalion's ancient capital, Cazaril is forced to confront not only powerful enemies but also the malignant curse that clings to the royal household, trapping him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death for as long as he dares walk the five-fold pathway of the gods.

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