“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” *
That is Lois McMaster Bujold effortlessly describing what I often feel about excellent writing but lack the skill to articulate. What I like best about starting a Bujold book is that feeling of home coming. I know that I will like the prose, I know that the characters will be interesting and believable, I don't
know if I will like her plot because sometime I don't, but even then her books are never unreadable. So a Bujold book is always a safe purchase.
This not being a Vorkosigan
book it took me a while to settle in, to get used to the unfamiliar world, people and situation. However, there is never a problem of initial inaccessibility, Ms. Bujold's clean, smooth witty prose with a touch of Jack Vance-esque floweriness always keep me afloat.
For a change the book is focused on a single character's POV, instead of the currently in vogue numerous multi-protagonists POV setup which often causes a book to feel fragmented and can play hell with continuity. Another Bujold trademark is unconventional protagonists, she tends to stay away from the fearsomely skilled and well endowed sexy heroic type. Cazaril, the protagonist of this book is a somewhat meek and subservient sympathetic middle age scholarly type with little or no fighting skills and a tendency to cower under quilts in extreme fear. However, when the chips are down he really shines
I generally read more sf than fantasy as I find it difficult to suspend disbelief with a lot of the magical shenanigan that goes on in a lot of fantasy books. All that SHAZAM! some poor dude turns into a fruit bat business is not for me. So I love how discrete
magic is in this book. It takes a lot of effort and the result is unpredictable. This being a Bujold book an element of romance is to be expected, fortunately she is too mature, intelligent, and classy to write endlessly about lovers staring into each others' eyes and other ghastly StephanieMeyerisms.
My only gripe with this book concerns the pacing of the first third which seems overly leisurely for my taste. The book ambles along amiably for a hundred or so pages with no sign of the ass kickage that follows later on in the book. Also, I am not a fan of fictional politics and court intrigue stories, so this minor aspect of the book is not so appealing to me. I do wonder why the author felt the need to invent terms for royalty like royesse, royina, royse, and royale with cheese (OK, not that last one which is a Dutch burger).
So all in all a very good book with a beating heart, Bujold's attention to details and craftsmanship is as evident as ever. I am definitely going to read the Hugo/Nebula award winning sequel Paladin of Souls
* Back to that “I need words that mean..." quote.
I just want to mention that it is not highlighted in my Kindle edition of this book. It's funny the sort of crap that people do highlight on Kindle books. For non-Kindle users I should explain that the highlight is a feature where users highlight their favorite sentences or passages of books and these are upload into the "cloud" at Amazon, after the same passages have been highlighted by a few users the highlight appear on the e-book edition as "popular highlight". So far I find this to be a useless feature which I should turn off but don't because my curiosity always get the best of me.