Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Review: Paladin of Souls

Paladin of SoulsLois McMaster Bujold
Awards: Nebula & Hugo
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ –

I really enjoyed this book. It's set in a sort of Middle-Ages-type world, with kings and queens and noblemen and handmaidens, but it's on another planet. The main character, Ista, has been depressed, which was identified as madness in her community, so she’s been penned up in her house for a long time and is going out of her mind with boredom. She goes on a trip, which she disguises as a religious pilgrimage but is really just a way to get the heck out and alleviate the suffocation of her home town. On this trip, naturally, she winds up in the middle of a war and also in the middle of a weird family situation in which a dead man keeps himself alive by temporarily borrowing the life force of his brother.

One of the best things about this book is the belief system Bujold set up for these people. Spirits and demons are present everywhere in the waking world, but Ista is one of the only people who can see them. Demons inhabit creatures from bugs to humans; when they finally are able to get into a human's body, they're really a terror. There are five deities - the father, the son, the mother, the daughter, and the bastard – and everybody is aligned with one of them. The deity that you're aligned with determines to some extent your outlook on the world – for example, people who are aligned with the bastard tend to be somewhat looked down on by society; they are skeptical and cynical and into science.

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