Last week on Twitter, a bunch of us got to talking about our favorite childhood books.* Several of the books mentioned, like The Ordinary Princess or Dealing with Dragons, had fantasy settings and unusual, clever princesses.
If you’re looking for the adult version of those delightful princess books, may I humbly recommend the works of sci-fi/fantasy author Lois McMaster Bujold?
My husband introduced me to Bujold about a year ago, and I can’t believe I never knew about her books before then. The woman has four Hugos and two Nebulas, for pete’s sake. Her books are so good that I almost feel embarrassed writing about them because every time I try, I’m reduced to a near-incoherent stream of superlatives.
So instead of selling you on her general merits as a writer, I’ll just tell you a bit about my favorite Bujold novel so far: Paladin of Souls.
The middle-aged Dowager Royina Ista has spent her life being ignored and underestimated, valued only for her beauty and her womb.** A series of cruel betrayals placed her under a curse of madness that stole nearly two decades of her life; now recovered, and subject to a never-ending stream of “you shouldn’t” and “you mustn’t” from her well-meaning attendants, she wonders what she will do with herself. Desperate to get away from her usual routine, she embarks on a sacred pilgrimage that doesn’t quite go according to plan. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that through it all, Ista is brave, sad, honest, cranky, no-nonsense, and utterly heroic. She’s an almost painfully sympathetic and compelling protagonist, and she’s unlike any other heroine in any of the fantasy novels I’ve read.
So if you were a fan of Amy the Ordinary Princess or Cimorene the spell-casting librarian-princess, go read Paladin of Souls. You should also read its prequel The Curse of Chalion, which has been keeping me up far too late at night this past week. And then join me in reading everything Lois McMaster Bujold has ever written.
* OK, I admit it. Twitter is fun. I’m a convert.
** Royina = Queen in the Bujold fantasy world.