Review of Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

June 19, 2005
Filed under: Reviews 

Fantasy Audiobooks - Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster BujoldPaladin of Souls
By Lois McMaster Bujold; Read by Kate Reading
13 CDs – Approx. 15 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0786181397
Themes: / Fantasy / Religion / Magic / Demons /

Paladin of Souls is the second book in Bujold’s series involving the country of Chalion. A minor, troubled character in the first book, The Curse of Chalion, is the heroine, or the champion of souls, in this remarkable tale. Lady Ista is an intriguing forty-something lead character and is best described by her own words: “I have always been a drab sort of thing; the only thing that has improved is my wits.” She is intelligent and witty and uses these talents to deal with devastating events from her past.

The setting for this story is a medieval-style world with a polytheistic religion in which men and women choose one of five Gods, each with unique callings and characteristics, to worship. In addition to this, there are demons and demon magic creating opposition for the plot. The story centers around Ista and her relationship with the Gods. She is disillusioned with them as a result of her past involvement that had deadly and heartbreaking consequences, but is dragged kicking and screaming back into their service. She is given the tasks of rescuing souls being destroyed by demons and sorting out a deadly triangle of demon magic and deception.

As the story unfolds Ista not only finds a calling that gives her life meaning, she finds devoted friends, forgiveness, and love. Within the story are several very moving interactions between her and the Gods wherein she comes to have a deeper understanding of their plans and their love for the men and women who serve them. Bujold has composed a beautiful novel that is at once compelling, humorous, and touching. Her characters are not only heroic, but fantastically multidimensional. They are by turns noble, compassionate, selfish, stubborn… human.

The audio version of Paladin of Souls is a wonderful example of the perfect pairing of story and voice. Kate Reading sounds like royalty in every book she narrates. Some may recognize her performances with Michael Kramer in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. She also has been the primary voice of Dr. Kay Scarpetta in Patricia Cornwell’s murder mysteries. Ms. Reading’s ability to enunciate without sounding like she is working at it lends itself beautifully to Lady Ista, whom we can assume would behave and sound like a person of the ruling class. With all this said, Paladin of Souls is a step above the ordinary in fantasy literature and audiobooks. It is a delight to experience.

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