The story starts small, with an enigmatic wanderer, namely our hero Cazaril, making his way to a former employer’s household. It turns out that Cazaril is actually a nobleman, who through betrayal from his own side became a galley slave. His former employer, grandmother of the heir and heiress to the throne, tasks him with the education of said heiress, Iselle. Soon, the heirs and Cazaril must make their way to the royal capital, there to attend on the king, ostensibly for him to officially name his successor. But intrigue, dark magics and old enemies abound in the cut-throat enviroment of courtiers and politicians. A curse hangs over the kingdom of Chalion.
I love McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. This book has a very different subject matter and setting, but Ms. McMaster Bujold’s supreme skills at characterization and dialogue remain. The plot is intriguing but the pacing is somewhat weak. Most of the book is set at the royal palace, The Zangre. While the story moves on, often with fascinating twists and turns, it feels a bit as if the first three quarters of the book merely set up the last quarter, in which the action truly picks up. Reading a slow paced story written by McMaster Bujold is still a pleasure, but I did spend a large part of the book waiting for something to actually happen.