One of the most honored authors in the field of fantasy and science fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold transports us once more to a dark and troubled land and embroils us in a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm.
Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets -- for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road -- escape -- beckons. . . . A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of all Chalion.
Yet something else is free, too -- something beyond deadly. To the north lies the vital border fortress of Porifors. Memories linger there as well, of wars and invasions and the mighty Golden General of Jokona. And someone, something, watches from across that border -- humans, demons, gods.
Ista thinks her little party of pilgrims wanders at will. But whose? When Ista's retinue is unexpectedly set upon not long into its travels, a mysterious ally appears -- a warrior nobleman who fights like a berserker. The temporary safety of her enigmatic champion's castle cannot ease Ista's mounting dread, however, when she finds his dark secrets are entangled with hers in a net of the gods' own weaving.
In her dreams the threads are already drawing her to unforeseen chances, fateful meetings, fearsome choices. What the inscrutable gods commanded of her in the past brought her land to the brink of devastation. Now, once again, they have chosen Ista as their instrument. And again, for good or for ill, she must comply....Continua
Astounding! I did not read the first book in the series as I was told this one would stand on its own, and so it was. A powerful story about an unlikely heroine: a once-crazy, middle-aged dowager queen that only wants to have a little room for herself and be treated like a human being from her peers. Of course things go downhill and Ista finds herself in the middle of a dangerous struggle between warring nations, gods, demons, a heroic knight and his stubborn and desperate wife. All is well crafted in this book: the character are lovable, Ista in particular with her regrets for the past, and her subtle, slightly cynical humour; the world-building is simple but effective; and the plot as well is one that fantasy veterans will recognize in its outline, but one that complements, rather than stunt or go at odds with, the character growth....Continua