I was a bit surprised by the number of replies generated by my review of The Curse of Chalion. Some people obviously enjoyed the book, and they claimed that the sequel was even better. Well, it does appear that our tastes are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, at least where Lois McMaster Bujold is concerned, for it was quite a chore for me to get through Paladin of Souls.
As the old law adage proclaims, there is no point in flogging a dead horse. So I will not elaborate extensively on what I consider this novel's shortcomings to be. But I have to address what, in my opinion at least, was not up to par. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that Bujold just ain't my cup of tea. Which might explain why I can't seem to get into her tales. I have to say, however, that Paladin of Souls receiving the Hugo Award for best novel of the year leaves me extremely baffled.
Lois McMaster Bujold's prose is again above the norm. The narrative flows quite well. Once more, the book reads like a YA novel. As I read most chapters, I found myself thinking back to the days when I was reading Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books.
As was the case with The Curse of Chalion, the worldbuilding in this one is weak. The fact that Ista spent the major part of this tale traveling around, I was expecting something with a little more depth. Hence, I was disappointed to realize that the worldbuilding still leaves a lot to be desired. Again, the story takes place in a relatively static environment.
The dialogues are a bit better than in the previous volume. But they are juvenile throughout, with some exceptions. In truth, the dialogues are what made me feel as if this was a YA novel. That, and the "all is well that ends well" sort of finish.
The pace is also a factor. The first two thirds of Paladin of Souls are slow-moving. This was not a book that kept me reading past my bedtime, telling myself that just another chapter wouldn't hurt.
The characterizations have improved a little in this volume. But nothing spectacular, mind you. Few characters are truly fleshed out. At the beginning, I thought that it would be interesting to see how Bujold would portray Ista, a former madwoman. But Ista rapidly becomes quite annoying. Unfortunately, there is no character like Cazaril in this one. The supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired. Again, it would have been interesting to see Bujold work a little more with the rest of the characters. The potential was definitely there with a number of characters: Illvin, dy Cabon, Goram, Arhys, and the twins. And yet, other characters, such as Liss, were particularly irritating. There is very little character growth worth mentioning in this one as well.
Perhaps the most disappointing facet of Paladin of Souls is that the main plot and subplots form another very linear storyline. We are a world away from a multi-layered fantasy epic.
In my opinion, Paladin of Souls doesn't live up to the hype. This is something to read on the plane or at the beach. . . Like The Curse of Chalion, reading this novel left me quite indifferent. I read these two books because I wanted to fully appreciate the ARC of Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt that HarperCollins sent me. But I think I need a break from Bujold before I tackle her latest fantasy installment. . .
The final verdict: 6,5/10