Paladin of Souls

by Lois McMaster Bujold
Series: World of the Five Gods 2
Reviewed date: 2008 Oct 7
Rating: 3
470 pages
cover art

Paladin of Souls is about Ista, the dowager royina of Chalion. She's basically the queen mother. To get away from a weary palace life she decides to take a religious pilgrimage. Unfortunately she is kidnapped by Jokonan soldiers. She is rescued, helps foil a full-scale Jokonan invasion, and uncovers a vast conspiracy of sorcery and demon-possession that threatens the existence of all nations on the Ibran peninsula.

  • Leisurely pace - Bujold doesn't rush through things. Paladin of Souls is 470 pages long, but Bujold isn't afraid to spend the first 100 pages with filler. It's a great way to gently introduce us to the fascinating world she's created.
  • Fascinating world - Bujold breaks new ground by setting her story in a pre-industrial feudal world. The small nations on the Ibran peninsula jockey for supremacy and fight small wars. There are castles and cavalry, knights and royalty, swords and sorcery. It's a setting that opens up so many different possibilities--for example, will the evil Jokonans attack using three cavalry columns or two? Will they bring siege weapons or will they use sorcery? Will the knights fight on horseback or on foot? All of these intriguing options are equally possible in Bujold's world.
  • Magic plot twists - What good is a novel without a few plot twists? Bujold's choice of the fantasy genre is the perfect setting. The rules of magic are fluid and constantly shifting, thereby enabling all sorts of exciting plot twists. For example, at the beginning of the book, Bujold reveals that demons cannot be sent out of this world except by the death of a demon-possessed dedicat. Later, in a plot twist, it is revealed that this is not true. In another plot twist, the royina Ista at first doesn't have second sight into the spirit world, then at a convenient time she is god-touched and gets second sight; later in a plot twist she loses her second sight; and in another surprising plot twist she regains her second sight at the critical moment. Bujold sure keeps you on your toes!

Paladin of Souls won the Nebula and Hugo awards. Here's a plot twist of my own: it barely deserves a three on my score card. That's not good enough to win a Hugo or a Nebula. Mrs. Bujold, if you're reading this, please return the trophies posthaste.

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