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This is another excellent book from the reliable Bujold, and again it is extremely well-read. For the record, this is the third of three books (The first being Curse of Chalion), all set in the same feudal-style fantasy world, but they are almost entirely unrelated in terms of plot and character. This book is set in a different area of the continent than the previous two novels, and could stand alone, thought the earlier books do spend more time developing the unique cosmology and theology of the universe.
That underlying theology - a world with five active, benevolent gods where the worst fate is to die without being taken into any of the five "heavens" - informs much of the plotline, which twists and turns in logical, yet unexpected, ways as the story progresses. It combines elements of high fantasy, political intrigue, and theological musings with dark, almost Wuthering Heights, romantic elements. (But don't let that scare you off if you don't like romantic novels, there is plenty of magic and action as well).
Unlike so many fantasy novels, there is no Dark Lord and no impending cataclysm driving the plot - though there are ancient wrongs that must be discovered and undone, they are at a much more human level, and it is at the level of character interaction that Bujold writes best. Her characters are unique, often quite humorous, and her dialogue is natural and tight. The reader, with only a few exceptions, handles the range of characters with great grace. The result is an impressive, well-written change from the usual multi-book epics of Robert Jordan or George Martin, that should appeal to fantasy fans of all kinds.
31 of 32 people found this review helpful
Ingrey Kin Wolfcliff is one of Bujold's wounded heroes. He begins in this story as a man who carries within himself the bound spirit of a great wolf. This makes him unholy but tolerated within the bounds of the religion of the Five Gods.
His earthly uses include being set to tasks that other men shun. Thus he was sent by the Royal Sealbearer to straighten out the mess that the young Prince had made of his death. It appears that the Prince had been engaging in forbidden sorcery. The situation though becomes more complicated when Lord Ingrey realizes that the young female prisoner he was to return to the capital for judicial disposition also bears an animal spirit as a result of the prince's malfeasance. Further when the complicated theology of the Five Gods and the tangled history of their land becomes involved the situation seems to spiral out of even Lord Ingrey's ability to control.
While the narrator at times seems a bit rushed and every so often it is not perfectly clear which character is making which comment, this is mostly very well done technically and a most enjoyable book.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
I was very excited at the prospect of a new Bujold novel, but slightly disappointed when I read it. It's not bad exactly - I'm not sure that Bujold is capable of writing a bad novel - it's just rather slow. It also feels like a bit of a rehash of the themes of some of her earlier novels.
So if you're new to Bujold I'd advise you not to start here. Try the first of her fantasy novels (The Curse of Chalion), or one of her scifi Vorkosigan novels (I'd recommend starting with Warrior's Apprentice).
If you've read every other Bujold novel then clearly you'll be desperate to read this, but prepare for mild disappointment. On the upside, her next novel (The Sharing Knife Volume 1 - not available on Audible at the time of writing this review) is a lovely read, so it's not as though she's lost her mojo for good.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
This book was so amazing. Bujold has invented a religion which is quite comprehensive and this installment in the 5-Gods world shows us more of how it works. The denouement is quite moving.
I was not overly fond of the narrators delivery and the male voices didn't work for me. They all seemed quite expressionless because of her effort to keep the pitch low as a man's voice would sound. The female voices were all easily distinguishable.