Wow, I really enjoyed this book and am so happy I discovered Bujold. She has a wonderful knack for creating a readable page turning story without it being insubstantial. Her characters are wonderful and flawed and middle aged and they have no clue what they are doing and she plunks them down in a middle of a story that is adventurous and thought provoking.
Paladin of Souls starts about 3 years after the events of her first book set in the Chalion universe, The Curse of Chalion. One of the secondary characters in that book, the dowager Royina Ista (sort of like the Queen Mother) takes center stage here. You don’t have to read The Curse of Chalion to get into this book but I would recommend it as it provides additional background into the political and religious intricacies of this world. And it was also a great book. At its core this is a story about divinity, and free will, redemption and our relationship with the divine. The religion and magic of the world is fascinating and the discussions of it only add to the books readability. But it is not just a theological treatise, it is also a great adventure and romance complete with zombies and sleeping beauties. In other words it was a joy to read, with an intricately woven, well paced plot and an ending that is just right.
I highly recommend it. But if you don’t believe me trust the real critics as this book won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards in 2004.