This book is apparently a sequel to another by Lois McMaster Bujold called The Curse of Chalion. I didn't know that when I bought it*, but after reading I did feel that it had a good backstory. I hope I didn't read all of the spoilers from the first book as backstory in this one. There may even be another one in this story line...trilogy? Lets check... sure enough, the third is called The Hallowed Hunt.
McMaster Bujold has been at it for a while; she has a bunch of books listed in the front matter of the book I just finished, Paladin of Souls. Paladin follows the story of Ista, a seemingly typical reluctant hero archetype, who pretty quickly steps out of the norm and does a great job carrying this story with a well rounded out character. Each of the main and supporting characters are pretty well fleshed out. McMaster Bujold seems to be very good at that, as well as careful plotting, backstory development, and she is capable of some very fine surprises.
As with many stories that take place in another realm, the character and place names can get a little heavy, but by about halfway through I stopped wishing for a glossary and just got on with it. When I finished, I still thought that it would have been a good idea, and a map would have been helpful too. Thankfully you can now find both of those things here and here. I'll parrot McMaster Bujold's warning however: looking at the map and especially the glossary can be spoiler dangers. I told you
This story is not a Lord of the Rings wannabe, thankfully, and if anything, it reminded me a little of The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix. I wouldn't say that its similar, but if you liked the Nix books, this would be right up your alley. Some of the things that are similar: strong female hero figure and some spirit-world-type action.
A real treat was the lack of any pasted-on-label good guys and bad guys. McMaster Bujold has painted a picture of a very realistic world where the politics of different nations, kingdoms, or whatever, are very similar to our own. Leaders, soldiers, and common men do much the same things. The bad guys in this story just seemed to make more of the wrong choices than the good guys on the whole, and that's what tips the scale.
Well that, and you know... some hellfire and devil worship, doesn't exactly encourage a lot of invitations to the barbeque. Nah, I'm just kidding. There wasn't a barbeque.
Read it! attend me, rapscallion!
* I bought this book used form the library book sale.