Thursday, 1 August 2013

Review | The Hallowed Hunt - Lois McMaster Bujold

Bujold has always been one of my favourite authors - and The Curse of Chalion definitely makes my (entirely imaginary) list of top ten novels: ie. I get a periodic and unavoidable desire to reread it. A lot. The Hallowed Hunt is the third novel set in the Curse of Chalion's world, and with each focusing on one of the world's five gods (Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, and Bastard), Hunt is firmly the Son's book. And it's well worth a read.

Set in the Wealds, an Orthodox Quintarian country built on the remnants of... a much older one. But the Old Wealds aren't quite as dead as all that, and their practices of binding animal spirits aren't either. Ingrey kin Wolfcliff, possessed of - you guessed it - an illegally-bound wolf spirit, is the one who ends up discovering this first hand. When the Lady Ijada kills Prince Boleso in self-defence, Ingrey is sent to escort her for trial - but he rapidly finds out that some unknown power is manipulating both him and Ijada for some unknown purpose, and one intimately involved with the magics of the Old Wealds.

In Bujold's best vein, the characterisation is superb - even if Ingrey isn't quite a Miles Vorkosigan, an Ista, or a Cazaril, he's still a convincing protagonist, and despite his curse, he avoids the worst cases of the "reluctant hero trope". Basically? It avoids cliches and hits believability. Which in turn is something that any reader appreciates! Ijada, similarly, is a great character, and very refreshing in that she reverses the tired old "man constrained by duty, woman urges him to desert obligation..." dynamic: Ijada, of the two, is the one who feels obligated - where Ingrey suggests fleeing the country! Though again, not quite Ista (who in the second half of Paladin of Souls is one of my benchmarks), the pair work well together.

The magic system, on the other hand, feels far darker -and seems more inspired - than that of Paladin: not in the same way as, say, Sanderson. whose intensely imaginative rule-based systems are well known, but more in the sense of what it evokes. Mistborn's magic is one easily imagined, understood in detail. The Hallowed Hunt's brings that sense of mystery: the feeling of the forbidden, brought up through images like those in the Wounded Woods, rather than the pretty lights and the other typical magical trappings.

However, the pacing does falter around the novel's midpoint. This is, to me, essentially due to the novel's antagonist. While unknown, and when known for certain, the suspense is kept high: they're a genuinely interesting, unpredictable adversary. But somewhere in the middle, there's a... gap. The hints as to this antagonist's identity are rather heavy handed, leaving a space where he's essentially known to the reader, but not to the characters, which - for a short time - is a little frustrating. Thankfully, more revelations soon bring an end to this and surprise the reader, putting both reader and characters on an even footing, but it does create a small pause.

Overall? The Hallowed Hunt will never overtake Curse in my affections, but it's definitely a deserving contender for your attention: far from one of Bujold's weaker novels, it's a fast paced read with a well-matched duo, one of the darker and more mystical magics I've seen (and if you like the atmospheric in fantasy, take your cue here!), and a convincing (though mainly angst free, in the long-winded sense at least) dilemma. Ingrey isn't sure if the gods are on his side or if he's part of a sacrifice play, and better, nor is the reader. For that alone I'd read it!

13 comments:

  1. Marian church or sage cathedral, one of the churches of the city of Damascus, capital of Syria, located in the old city of Damascus area to the left of straight road going to the door of the east, and from the Syrian ancient churches dating back to the beginning of the spread of Christianity in Damascus, the church affiliated Orthodox church for Greek they are also Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East headquarters of the Greek Orthodox.

    ReplyDelete