Four out of five
Started reading this recently for a book club and remembered just how much I enjoy Bujold’s work. The main character, Caz, is a lord who has fallen. Somehow he was dropped off of the list of lords to be ransomed after a failed war, part of a personal vendetta. Finally returning home he hopes for a job in the kitchen of his one time benefactor only to end up tutor to her intelligent and beautiful granddaughter. As with all fantasy novels there is a magic system but it is combined with the ideas of freewill and religion. The country of Chalion is one of the lands where five gods are worshiped, the Mother, the Father, the Daughter, the Son and the Bastard. Each has their own temples, priests, and for three soldiers. The basic idea is that if one completely gives up one’s free will to their god they could become a saint, someone who is used by the gods to whatever end they are looking for. Death magic is used to assassinate enemy’s but as it takes the life of the assassin it is very uncommon. Caz has unknowingly become a saint of the Bastard and it is up to him to end a curse that has plagued the ruling family for several generations. The plot plays out well with no major sub-plots which keeps things simple. The whole story is told from Caz’s point of view. Caz, while remaining an honorable man, is a well rounded character. His student Iselle is energetic and intelligent. Rather than fight against a society that sees royal women as pawns she works with the system to plan her own future. My only complaint would be that I would have liked to see at least one woman character rebel against the system. All of the women seem to take it in stride and all seem to get good husbands. Even the Dowager Royina whose marriage was unconventional loved her husband. In such a system there must be someone who ends up with the short end of the stick and it would have been nice to see that. Still I enjoyed this book and recommend it.