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    Review of PALADIN OF SOULS by Lois McMaster Bujold (see her website)

    EOS, September 2003

    At 40, Royina Ista feels trapped by her caring relatives. With her husband and parents dead, she decides on a fake pilgrimage as a way of escaping their smothering care. What begins as a merry voyage quickly becomes dangerous. A plague of demons has overrun Chalion. The demons are a form of elemental that gain knowledge from their hosts and return power. But the power comes at a cost--ultimately leading to the destruction of the host's soul. And in Chalion, the soul is very important because the gods (they worship 4+1 gods) are quite real, quite present, and quite powerful. But even the gods can only work through people and one person they decide on is Ista. And the god that favors Ista most is the 'bastard,' the one god outside the normal temple system. A god denied by Chalion's neighbors.

    When enemy cavalry captures Ista, PALADIN OF SOULS picks up the pace and its emotional wallop. Ista is an unwilling saint, but although people can deny the gods, they do so only at a price. Still, even the gods' powers seem inadequate to deal with the real challenges ahead of her. How, exactly, does she safely send the soul of a man to the appropriate god when that man has already been dead for months?

    Author Lois McMaster Bujold (see more reviews of novels by Bujold) writes a powerful and emotional story. PALADIN OF SOULS is a mature work by one of the best SF authors writing today. I found first half of the book a little slow and Ista initially difficult to like. Once Bujold got through her setup and cranked the story into overdrive, however, the adventure, emotional intensity, and characters were compelling, real, and vivid. Fantasy fans will also find Bujold's world-building to be fascinating. The gods, religions, cultural differences among people, and the magical system are all fully developed and a joy to read.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 10/21/03

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