The Curse of Chalion

   Word of the day:  resolution

I am, of course, quite behind. The moment I get published, this blog goes off-line. I don’t need to be making enemies - I’m only here to muse about writing, to ask, for instance, why all but one of the stories in the latest Analog were in the first person. Some were good, some were so-so, but all were confusing. I couldn’t even keep track of the protagonist’s gender in a couple of them, never mind more relevant details, and it’s a trying POV for an entire magazine to be in.

Outstanding novels for recap are: The Curse of Chalion, The Spirit Ring, Aristoi, Forever Peace, She and Make Room! Make Room! I just finished The Curse of Chalion, so perhaps I should get that one in while it’s fresh in my mind.

First off, it was an amazing book, and it was very satisfying to have an LMB book that was so long - a life, and not a chapter of a life. Yet Miles was still in this purported fantasy - his little “oh”’s and “and yet”’s disturbed me at first, coming out of the mouth of a medieval character, until I decided that Miles was LMB’s ideal man, as Rand would put it. Of course he has to show up everywhere, and his absence from The Spirit Ring was that novel’s greatest flaw.

Usually Miles has a better supporting cast, but usually he has a bigger supporting universe as well. She did manage to fool me with them for most of the story, but near the end I realized that Betriz and Iselle were rather sketchy for their large role in the novel, and in fact, all the non-Miles characters were, just like those of her previous fantasy. A whole world came to her, LMB says in the acknowledgements, but it was a peninsular one. Spain was clearly painted, and the language craftily subverted, but all the variety and conflict I think of, when I think of medieval Iberia, was brushed out. The Curse of Chalion was a lot like The Spirit Ring in its attempt at historical fantasy, and I’m still not sure that LMB’s minimalist approach to fantasy works - or it is a religious approach to fantasy? The theology was certainly the best part of the novel; in fact there was too much of it. It wouldn’t have hurt to spread it through a couple of novels, or, say, ten. Why hasn’t it been in Miles’? Certainly there’s more religion in the Vorkosigan saga than one expects in space opera, but it is religion without gods - raw existential honor.

LMB waxed Chestertonian at the end of the book - I knew she had it in her. Her plot devices, both the worn old ones and the impressive weaving of threads in and out of the story, were top-notch. The climax went by a bit too quick, for such a large and slow book, yet it was a hard thing to swing and it worked rather well for all that. She drew me in, she fooled me into believing in her characters, but she didn’t top Memory, or Komarr, or Shards of Honor. In theory, she could have - what was there in Spain but honor? But in Spain religion was a horror story men are still telling today.

Strange, strange choices, but a good book nonetheless.

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