Review: World of the Five Gods
There are moments when you feel something shift under you. Where you know that the world changed in some way like you slipped through a crack and moved one universe over. That's how I felt when I finished The Curse of Chalion. That's dramatic, perhaps overly so. Anyway I found a great author to love, and it one of those awesome convergences of an excellent writer having been out there producing for a long time so that when I find them, there's a bunch of stuff to read! It's one of those things that you live for when you read as much as I do.
The series starts with the Curse of Chalion. An introduction to a world dominated by the worship of five gods. One for each finger of the hand. The first sign that your are in for something special. I love the idea of tying religious worship into a part of the body. It's a small detail, but Bujold uses it with great precision to provide easy and simple explanation of the world while tying them to easy to understand gestures of the hand and the body issues that tying religion to a body part brings. Indeed supposedly each book in the series focuses on a particular god, and it's finger.
Curse of Chalion is a book that flexes past the more common tropes of the fantasy genre to be something really unique. It's a powerfully introspective book at times that doesn't waver from having it's main character spend pages and pages concerning himself with the ethics and moral implications of his actions, but because the world is created in such a religious atmosphere, this never feels like long winded philosophizing. Instead, the character is always earnest and heartfelt in his deliberations. Indeed those ideas find themselves manifest in almost physical manners because the powers at work in the world are religious ones and so the implications of their actions in the world are always tainted by the faith of the people and gods involved.
That said this is a fantasy book. No doubt there are a lot of rules and magic and philosophy to take in as we explore, but this is one of those books that blunts the obfuscation that follows heavy fantasy worlds with the realness of the characters and the people without losing the wonder of all the fantasy elements.
This is a great read and one I highly recommend that you pick up.
But it's Paladin of Souls that really sold me on the series and on Bujold as one of my favorite authors not just of fantasy but of all literature. Paladin moves a key character from Curse of Chalion out of the court intrigue and machinations of that book's setting and out into the hinterlands and border territories.
It continues to use the amazing world building and fascinating religious structure while at the same time showing one of the series great strengths. Through the eyes of the female main character of this book Bujold shows her incredible skill at creating characters that weave their personal and plot driven issues into something great. Her ability to show strong female characters that show their strength through the navigation of a culture and society that constantly belittles and oppresses them is incredible. Curse had similar sub-themes in it but it's brought to the fore here and executed to great effect. This was a book that I not only enjoyed but felt like I was learning about writing with every page.
It culminates in a plot that once again somehow merges all of its disparate aspects of religion and politics and magic all into an excellent layered conclusion that raises the series to classic status.
The third book is the weakest of the three currently available books in the series. I would say it's because of the choice to expand the already rich lore of the stories in a new direction, but really that seems to be the point of this series. Each novel tackling different issues and concerns while always focusing on the characters and delivering on confounding and overlapping stories and plots in a new way every time.
The Hallowed Hunt is still just as excellently written as its predecessors and is certainly nothing short of a great story, put in the bronze position only in the shadow of the earlier books in the series.
As a whole the World of the Five Gods is a five out of five. Hope to see the final two books one of these days.