Continuing to change my formatting until I find one that I like :-)
Title: Paladin of Souls
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
# of Pages: 496
Favorite line: "Instructing you, sweet Ista, would be like teaching a falcon to walk up to its prey. It might with great effort be done, but one would end with a very footsore and cranky bird, and a tedious wait for dinnner. With a wingspan like yours, it's ever so much easier just to shake you from my wrist and let you fly."
The eagerly awaited sequel to The Curse of Chalion (2001) continues the story of the world of Chalion, though not strictly of Chalion, after Iselle and Bergon have defeated one lot of enemies and celebrated their wedding. Paladin of Souls focuses, however, on Iselle's mother, Ista. Three years free of the madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle, Ista is finally released from her last remaining duties by the death of her mother. She undertakes a pilgrimage, but doesn't get far before she is overtaken by trouble, sorrow, need, and a host of other adversities. Chalion is in trouble again, thanks to the plots, counterplots, machinations, and follies of men and of gods, and Ista is perforce on the front lines. Bujold couldn't characterize badly if threatened with a firing squad, and what really keeps one turning the pages is the fascinating cast of characters--not that the plot is anything to sneeze at. Only dedicated addicts of Bujold's Vorkosigan saga will be miffed that she has given us this book rather than that sf series' next installment, for Bujold is also head and shoulders above the ruck of current fantasists as well as science-fictionists. Roland Green
I get tired of writing out the plot summaries of books, so now by using someone else's (which is usually better), I can get straight to my own personal responses!
I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps not quite as much as its predecessor, but that is a small quibble. I think Bujold is a master of writing likable female characters. Not every author can do this (in my opinion, hardly any author can do this). But Bujold manages to give us a lady who is past 40 and thought crazy, and make her independent, strong and just a good person. None of that emotional baggage that many women carry around in fantasy novels. Ista is not emotionally weak by any means, but she also isn't the American Gladiator of the female half of the species. She's just ... someone you'd want to sit back and get to know.
That's not to say that there isn't a completely obnoxious female in the story- there certainly is. But luckily, she is portrayed as being obnoxious and it's ok not to like her.
Paladin of Souls spends a lot of its time debating religious theory. This is really interesting most of the time, but it also can go straight over your head. There is a lot about sainthood again, as there was in The Curse of Chalion, and the real powers of a god. I think Bujold would just be a very interesting person to sit and discuss theology with. There are so many fascinating ideas in her head, and the way she puts them down onto paper to create a viable story is really quite a feat.
The language also is excellent- I had trouble choosing my favorite quote. The imagery is well-done, the plot moves along well, and we do get a very brief glimpse of the happy lives of characters in The Curse of Chalion. If you read the first book, you'll most likely want to read the second!