The Bujold Nexus

The Curse of Chalion - Compiled Notes

These notes were first compiled by Tammy Nott as part of a group discussion of The Curse of Chalion that took place on the Lois-Bujold mailing list from July to October 2002. All page numbers are from the hardcover edition. Warning: There are quite a few spoilers for first-time readers.

Chapter 1:

Cool quotes:
p.3: "He caught his breath and heaved to his feet, feeling a century old, feeling like road dung stuck to the boot heel of the Father of Winter as he made his way out of the world."

p.4: "Gold. Temptation to the weak, weariness to the wise..." What quote is this adapted from?

p.9: "The dream of a silent, abashed place by the kitchen fire, nameless, not bellowed at by any creature more alarming than a cook, for any task more dreadful than drawing water or carrying firewood, had drawn him onward into the last of the winter winds."

p.9: "Instead, Cazaril begs a peasant for the clothes off a corpse, and is grateful for both their favors. Is. Is. Most humbly grateful. Most humbly." Lots of different tones you could read into these lines. Except, I don't think Caz begged; more like, made a civil request. Some bitterness there? And every time I read this, I want The Reader's Chair to do this novel so that I can hear Michael Hanson's rendition of Cazaril.

I'm going to try and keep track of the mule imagery throughout the book, to see if I can fit it into the themes, so here is the first mention, p.1: "...parsimonious pack-men driving their mules." (when Cazaril first hears the mounted men behind him)

And a donkey quote, p.2: "Today, I should be happy for a donkey, though I had to bend my knees to keep from trailing my toes in the mud." Information about Cazaril's appearance and state of mind in one sentence. We get a lot of information that way, elegant and economical.

LOTS of set-up and foreshadowing in this chapter:
1. The Daughter of Spring, Her colors, and Her order are mentioned.
2. Death magic and its odd effects are explained.
3. The Bastard, His animals, and part of His purview are mentioned.
4. Cazaril's former, higher status is indicated, though not explicitly stated. See the quote above about grateful; also p.6: "What harm was it for Cazaril to Sir a farmer?" What harm indeed, unless Cazaril had once been accustomed to much higher rank?
5. The Holy Family and all its members are mentioned.
6. Cazaril's terrible experience on the galleys is hinted at, but not made explicit.
7. The scars on Cazaril's back, their origin, and the false stories they imply are shown.
8. The dead merchant's book in cipher is introduced, used in part to convey Cazaril's intelligence.
9. Cazaril's precarious physical and emotional state is shown.

p.11: "Cast off, certainly; betrayed, perhaps. But he'd never deserted a post, not even his most disastrous ones." A prophetic statement, though Cazaril doesn't realize it.

p.13: "...there was no case Cazaril knew of a magical assassination that had not cost the life of its caster." Heh. Just wait.

The first of Bujold's characteristic humor on p.3: "Instead, Cazaril bowed and intoned "May the blessings of the Lady of Spring fall upon your head, young sir, in the same spirit as your bounty to a roadside vagabond, and as little begrudged."" Also the first of the double-talk, which is my expression for when characters say one thing and mean something else, or mean more than just what the words said, or when they say one thing and the listener (or reader) hears something different. Sometimes Bujold emphasizes the double or unspoken meaning by explaining and sometimes she leaves it as is.

p. 7: "No good to leave it standing, it's too close to the road. Attracts"--he eyed Cazaril--"trouble." (The farmer, speaking of the ruined mill) More double-talk, with the non-verbal message made plain.

A couple of general observations: The differing social backgrounds of the characters are nicely indicated by their speech patterns. Information about Chalion is mostly told; information about Cazaril is mostly shown. Cazaril is the only character in this chapter to have a name, which is appropriate, since we don't see any of the others except for one of the soldiers, briefly, again.

Chapter 2:

Bujoldian bon mots:
p.18, "We are slowed down. Indeed, we're stopped, " the dark-haired girl pointed out logically. "We cannot outrun your tongue, good heart, no matter how we try. It is too fast for the speediest horse in Baocia."

p.19, "Then you might meditate, Royesse, on what honor a captain can claim, who drags his followers into an error when he knows he will himself escape the punishment."

p.21, "We have what we can hold, dear boy, and never let them see you flinch or falter."

p.29, "...a skilled soldier kills your enemies but a skilled duelist kills your allies. I leave you to guess which a wise commander prefers to have in his camp." And we are left to guess which kind of commander Cazaril was.

p.30, the Provincara, on the difference between power and privilege: "One is the right to rule--and the duty to protect! T'other is the right to receive protection."

More setup and foreshadowing:
1.We meet Iselle, Betriz, and Teidez.
2.We learn that Ista is "not entirely well", an understatement if ever there was one.
3.Cazaril tells of his harrowing experience after Gotorget (though not in detail) and refers to the non-error that sent him to the galleys.
4.The case of the dead merchant is explained, setting Iselle up for her shenanigans in chapter 3.
5.The Bastard is explained a little more.

p.25, The Povincara to Cazaril: "You aspired to be a poet, as I recall." Heh. Who was it that speculated in 2001 about the Curse sparing Chalion Cazaril's bad poetry?

p.31, Cazaril's speculation about Iselle's future (Darthaca, Brajar, the Roknari islands) is amusing in light of her eventual fate.

Cazaril is brought to tears 3 times in this chapter and refers to previous bouts of copious weeping. Why then don't I see him as a crybaby? Because I never have, even when I was reading Chalion for the very first time chapter by chapter on the web.

Is the older woman who is the last one in of the riding party Nan dy Vrit?

Mule reference, p.18: "Your grandmother bought you that lovely white mule, Royesse, why don't you ever ride him?" Hmmm. If mules are a metaphor for Cazaril--which I'm inclined to think they are, thanks to Mr. Rosen--then this could be taken as a rather suggestive question. In some minds. And Iselle's countering that it's so much more slooooow is...probably taking the metaphor a little farther than the author intended.

p.23, "Happily, no one seized on that weak error." (Cazaril talking about how he got sent to the galleys) I did not understand until this reread what that sentence was referring to and thus why the word error was italicized. A bit too subtle on Bujold's part? Or was I not being an attentive enough reader?

p.23, "I kept protesting til we put to sea, and then I...learned not to." This is a good instance of the power of the unspoken, which Bujold frequently uses. Given what we already know of his physical condition, it's obvious the things Cazaril left out of that statement could fill volumes. Horrific volumes.

p.24: The Provincara seems to be indignant not on Cazaril's behalf, but on the Castillar's behalf. Rank would seem to be fairly rigid in this world.

p.21, "You will always be the great lady to me, Your Grace, whom we worshipped from afar." Notice how Cazaril never speaks or even thinks her name? She is always Her Grace or the Provincara throughout the book. Nice demonstration of Cazaril's respect for her.

Chapter 3:

Cool quotes:
p.36, "But surely he might watch her with a purely aesthetic appreciation, and thank the goddesses for her gifts of youth, beauty, and verve howsoever they were scattered. Brightening the world like flowers."

p.45, "If I have a greater privilege in Chalion, surely I have a greater duty to Chalion as well."

p.46, "It looks to me to be a trifle too late to teach Iselle to be a coward." Bless Cazaril for putting it like that!

p.47, "The gods have surely landed you upon my wrist. Bastard's demons take me if I haven't the wit to jess you." With this metaphor, the Provincara classifies Cazaril as a falcon or hawk--a winged predator that is a challenge to capture and tame. Very different from his own self-image.

Mule imagery: The Royesse's white mule, all decorated with the symbols of the Daughter like Iselle, bears Iselle in the procession to the temple and back.

Foreshadowing, p.40: "How strangely we are blinded by the surfaces of things.", when the soldier fails to recognize Cazaril from the day before. As someone pointed out last year, this anticipates Umegat and the camouflage of his groom's uniform.

p.48, "Couldn't you give me a fortress under siege, instead?" The humor faded from her face. She leaned forward and tapped him on the knee; her voice dropped and she breathed, "She will be, soon enough." Cazaril and the Provincara, regarding Iselle. Iselle finally recognizes it in the Zangre.

This was a delightful chapter with lots of humor:
Cazaril's self-consciousness around Betriz at the beginning.
p.39, "Cazaril reminded himself that he needn't try to make up for 3 years of privation in a day."
p.40, The acolytes trying to encourage people not to use "the rude versions" of the songs. As well as being a funny touch, it serves to make the background more real.
p.41, "It was considered an unlucky year, at least by the god's avatar, when the crowd could use real snowballs."
p.42, "Iselle smiled and received and blessed; the chief divine smiled and transferred and thanked; the secretary smiled and recorded and piled." This is even funnier when read aloud. Humor through repetition and parallel construction.
Iselle's entire episode with the judge and everyone's reactions. (p.42-44)
p.45, Betriz undercutting her declaration of loyalty with the disclaimer about not knowing for sure; the Provincara's likening Iselle's education to that of a hunting dog; Lady dy Hueltar and Dy Ferrij sputtering when Iselle quotes them about her duty to Chalion.
p.46, "Cazaril was profoundly thankful that he had no part in this." Hah! By the end of the chapter he's thrown into the midst of it, and with his consent, too. Given to Iselle by her grandmother, like the mule.
p.48, Cazaril's appalled reaction to his job offer and the Provincara's glee.

As Cazaril thinks over his career in response to Betriz's question at the beginning of the chapter, we get a brief impression of the recent military history of Chalion and it seems to be all bad ("He didn't think there'd been a defeat he'd missed").

Between this chapter and the last, we learn a lot about Iselle, most of it through dialogue. She has the wit to recognize injustice, the idealism to want it righted, and the nerve and determination to act in support of her idealism. She lacks the experience needed to apply her actions wisely just yet and Cazaril is the only character to put into words why her action regarding the judge was unwise.

Chapter 4:

Bujoldian bon mots:
p.51, "He could be as hollow as a drum, so long as he was as loud." which makes an interesting pairing with,
p.54, "His stomach felt suddenly as hollow as a drum, and it had nothing to do with lack of food."

p.52, "But if you desire a man to tell you comfortable lies about your prowess and so fetter any hope of true excellence, I'm sure you may find one anywhere. Not all prisons are made of iron bars. Some are made of feather beds."

p.53, "On average, one-half of all supplicants to come before a judge's bench must depart angry and disappointed. But not, by that, necessarily wronged."

p.62, "The quietude of the Provincara's household, balm to Cazaril's soul, was doubtless acid to poor constricted Teidez." Juxtaposition of opposites (balm vs. acid) and a subtle introduction for the way the Curse works, later.

Set-up and foreshadowing:
1. Orico's menagerie is first mentioned on page 57.
2. p.59 Cazaril muses on the gods, god-touched, and miracles. "Cazaril trusted devoutly that the Daughter of Spring had gone away satisfied with her avatar's action. Or just gone away..." Not a chance, Cazaril, not a chance.
3. This chapter introduces Teidez's importance as heir to the throne and the accompanying dangers in his path.
4. Dy Sanda is shown to be a man of honor, but limited, particularly in imagination.

p.62, "A viler man of like ambition might well be pandering to Teidez's appetites instead of attempting to control them..." anticipating Dondo. and "While the Provincara was in charge, Teidez was unlikely to encounter such parasites." And look what happens when Teidez is taken from her protection.

p.56, Cazaril considers Iselle's dowry: "Should he list himself as Item One in that bridal inventory?" Surely, yes.

p.51, "...the key was to take the initiative from the first moment, and keep it thereafter." An indirect lesson that Iselle takes to heart, rather to Cazaril's surprise later.

General remarks:
No mules in this chapter!

p.50, "Never had he felt more repulsively male..." Can one feel repulsively male? That sounds wrong to me.

p.50, "A maiden of Iselle's rank would almost never be left alone, and certainly not with a man, even a prematurely aged and convalescent one of her own household." This sentence is pure exposition, but it's not long enough to qualify as infodump. Good way to inform the reader about the culture.

p.51 "I take it you do not fancy yourself a flatterer, Castillar?" Double-talk, as the next sentence makes plain.

Cazaril is not used to young ladies, as he explicitly states more than once; he likens them in his thoughts to the soldiers and pages he has known and treats them accordingly. This is their good fortune and certainly meets with their favor.

The exchange between Cazaril and Iselle on the subject of her "spectacular gesture" at the temple increased my admiration and liking for both of them. The heart of it for me is the following quote, p.53: "You may have slandered an honest man. Or you may have struck a blow for justice. I don't know. The point is...neither do you." Cazaril not only tells her she was unwise but also shows why it was unwise, frankly admitting his own ignorance as well. And Iselle, having been shown her error, turns around and seeks to correct it by the best means available to her, i.e. Cazaril.

Iselle calls Cazaril "Castillar" when she is addressing him as her tutor, but when she is addressing him as her secretary, she call him "Cazaril". Later, her use of "Cazaril" seems to signify friendship. The differing names emphasize shifting social interactions.

p.60: Betriz seems to be more indignant than Iselle at dy Sanda's behavior to Cazaril. Is this an early indication of the differing quality of their regard for Cazaril?

p.56, "A lady of rank was normally sent off to marriage with cartloads--Cazaril hoped not boatloads--of fine goods..." Subtle double-talk--if it's boatloads, then it's the Roknar archipelago, something Cazaril doesn't want.

p.61, Cazaril watches in fascination as: "...four grown men began to belabor the boy and the obvious. Where have you been? scarely needed asked, Why did you do that? likewise, Why didn't you tell anyone? grew more apparent by the minute." Humor by omission (Why didn't you tell is demonstrated but not explicitly stated)

Thinking about Teidez's poor accompanying groom at the end of the chapter:
evidently no one gave Teidez that little talk about captains leading their followers into error and lost honor thereby, or if they did, it didn't stick. Yes, Teidez does get punished, but the groom is punished much more severely.

Chapter 5:

Cool quotes:
p.71, "I'll trust your judgement--to the exact extent you trust my discretion."

p.73, "I was fortunate in my misfortunes. I survived."

p.74, "Once at sea, the sea supplied all." Such an innocuous statement to convey such horrors.

p.76, "So whenever fear comes back into my heart, I am more pleased than anything, for I take it as a sign that I am not mad after all. Or maybe, at least, getting better. Fear is my friend." His own fear may be Cazaril's friend, but Dondo's fear is not.

p.76, "Of course, the whole world was only a few dozen paces long, and made of wood, and rocked on the water...all time was the turning of a glass. I planned my life by the hour as closely as one plans a year, and no further than an hour." Is this an early demonstration of Cazaril's yen for poetry?

p.77, "We lords, at our oars, then? We sweating, pissing, swearing, grunting gentlemen? I think not, Palli. On the galleys we were not lords or men. We were men or animals, and which proved which had no relation I ever saw to birth or blood. The greatest soul I ever met there had been a tanner, and I would kiss his feet right now with joy to learn he yet lived. We slaves, we lords, we fools, we men and women, we mortals, we toys of the gods--all the same thing, Palli. They are all the same to me now." I want to know the story behind that reference to the tanner.

Mule reference: p.76, "I did not mean to make you a donkey for my confidences, to carry them safely away....They make a motley menagerie to burden you with." Donkeys are not exactly the same as mules, but they are close enough for metaphorical purposes. This might be a reference to a Chalionese version of the scapegoat. I also thought of Ivan in Memory, complaining facetiously about Miles burdening him like a donkey, and Miles replying seriously that the burden might be explosive and Miles needs a "donkey he can rely on absolutely. Palli and Ivan, both deeply loyal, though Palli may be more straightforward about it.

Setup and foreshadowing:
1.We meet Palli and learn much through him, both about Cazaril and about the larger political context (Orico's favoring the dy Jironal brothers, Ibra's civil war).
2.We learn that Cazaril was definitely betrayed, and by whom.
3.We learn about the incident between Cazaril and Dondo dy Jironal that led to Dondo's enmity.
4.The Roknari quadrene faith is introduced, setting up Umegat's history later.
5.The idea that Cazaril died after Gotorget is introduced in this chapter, which will be crucial later on.

p.70, "You were always the most agreeable man--you were downright famous for refusing duels, and leaving the bullroarers to look like the fools they were--for making peace, for wheedling out the most amazing treaty terms, for avoiding faction--Bastard's hell, you didn't even make bets on games!" At first glance, this looks like Bujold is breaking the writing guideline of show-don't-tell; however, if you pay attention, she redeems it all by the end of the book as foreshadowing. An agreeable man, we've already seen Cazaril demonstrate. Famous for refusing duels? Too bad dy Joal didn't know about that. Making peace, we see over and over in his advice to Iselle and later, Bergon. Wheedling out the most amazing treaty terms like Iselle's marriage contract. Etc., etc.

p.76, "Until the last incident with that terrified defiant Ibran boy, and Cazaril's resultant final flogging." The first mention of Bergon!

p.77, "Well, he was surely sheltered here in quiet Valenda." Which means he's not going to get to stay there much longer. Shades of Miles feeling on top of everything at the beginning of Mirror Dance.

General remarks:
The last sentence or two of prayer at the end of the chapter could be seen as a red herring. Did anybody take it as such?

p.63, Iselle and Betriz's "feminine attentions" and the reason behind them are a note of humor in constrast to the much more serious tone later in the chapter.

p.71, Palli and Cazaril's banter reinforces the impression of their friendship. Cazaril does not verbally refer to him as a friend in this chapter, either out loud or in his thoughts. The closest he comes is when he introduces Palli as "my good right arm at Gotorget".

p.77, "Cazaril lay down with his pains and his memories." And with all we have learned this night, they are one and the same.

Chapter 6:

Cool quotes:
p.81, "All my dreams are but confused throngs, and disperse like smoke and vapors upon my waking." LMB writes these lovely lines that put me in mind of Shakespeare; this is one of them.

p.82, "My children are prisoners of fortune. And fortune is gone mad in Chalion." followed by p.82, "I think there are worse prisons than this sunny keep, lady." An echo of "not all prisons are made of iron bars" from chapter 4, but with a different emphasis.

p.85, "...any battlefield I was ever on was a lot more like a butcher's yard than it was like a dueling ring."

p.86, "Stripping naked to swim would display all the old disasters written in his flesh, a history he did not care to expound upon." I like this figure of speech.

Others have quoted Ista on the dangerous nature of prayer, so I'll just nod virtually in agreement.

Page 79 has the first mention of Ordol's The Fivefold Pathway of the Soul.

The conversation between Cazaril and Ista is stuffed full of foreshadowing and double-talk. Analyzing it in detail would mean quoting more than I think fair use in copyright law allows, not to mention taking up too many bytes. Read it again, and go "Ooo" in appreciation.

p.85, Ser dy Sanda to Teidez: "You are destined to be a gentleman--at the least!--not a butcher's apprentice." Two chapters later Dondo is mentoring Teidez and, one assumes, preparing the ground for the menagerie slaughter.

General comments:
Ista's methodical shredding of the rose remains a striking and disturbing image, despite many re-reads.

The idea of drowning is emphasized in this chapter (dy Lutez's death, Cazaril's story of the night drowning, some of Ista's images).

Ista's double-talk is as much a mystery to the reader as to Cazaril the first time through the book. Page 84, "...her occasional opacity of discourse felt more like cipher than babble to him. Of an elusive internal consistency, if only one held the key to it." One does possess the key upon later readings, so that one reads from Ista's point of view as well as Cazaril's. Bujold has done this in previous books like Shards of Honor.

Lots of small humorous touches in this chapter, for example on page 89, "He stifled the idea repeatedly, but it kept popping up--along with other things, alas, especially during swimming lessons." Also page 91, "Teidez's gory appearance was merely the result of an afternoon training session at Valenda's butcher's yard." Heh. Looks like Teidez won that argument with dy Sanda.

Ista and Teidez both think of Valenda as a prison; Iselle may, too. Contrast with Cazaril thinking of it as a sanctuary.

Chapter 7 (As the roller coaster finishes the slow climb, and is poised to begin the first thundering descent...):

Cool quotes:
p.96-97, "Bribe and counterbribe turned the columns back, until Chalion was become an odd interlocking dance of counting armies and armed accountants." Repetition and near-repetition for effect.

p.104, "Teidez's elevation was also the royal couple's public acknowledgment of a most private despair."

p.107, "For the old man to defeat his son is like to defeating himself"

p.109, "He could, it seemed, smile and smile, and not launch himself at the lying villain's throat--I'll make a courtier yet, eh?"

Mule reference, p.93: "...the whole train of riders and pack mules started down the muddy road once more." Also, the reference to Iselle's white mule a few sentences later.

Set-up and foreshadowing:
1. We learn the story of Fonsa's death magic against the Golden General.
2. We meet Orico and Umegat and see the menagerie.
3. We meet the dy Jironal brothers.
4. We witness the start of Dondo's attempts to attach Teidez and Iselle to himself.
5. We learn of the attack on Bergon and his subsequent rescue, though not the details.
6. Cazaril tells about the sacred crows of Fonsa's tower.

p.94, "Lady, please do not send me blindfolded into battle!" Cazaril makes this plea to Ista, but might he also be making it to the Daughter, if unknowingly? In any case, his "blindfold" is not removed until rather later.

p.98,"The roya is visiting his menagerie, which is a great consolation to him." Does the warder know just how great a consolation?

p.97, "...he ordered the lower windows and doors of his dead father's tower bricked up, and proclaimed that no one should enter it again." Which proclamation Cazaril breaks, later. Wonder if Iselle will maintain that taboo?

p.102, Cazaril, contemplating the dy Jironals "If he did nothing to draw attention to himself, they would not be reminded of what they had forgotten, and he would be safe. A fool's hope."

General remarks:
Cardegoss, the Zangre and the menagerie are vividly described. The descriptions of the Zangre are especially picturesque.

Several bits of humor throughout this chapter; for example, p.93, "...Snowflake--who might at this point more aptly be named Mudpot..." Leaving the reader to imagine the sight, funnier than any description.
p.98, "stabling" the royal teenagers.
p.103, "After only some seven or eight delays for last-minute exchanges and adjustments..." Only??
p.107, "...Roya Orico promptly fell asleep in his chair, to Cazaril's envy."
Cazaril's explanation at the end of the chapter of why he doesn't use his first name.

p.108-109, Cazaril's exchange with the Chancellor is all double-talk, both knowingly and unknowingly. As Miles said in another book, "What a fabulous array of double meanings...".

p.105, regarding the Chancellor's seal rings, "...a wealth of jewels could not possibly have added more impact to that casual display of power." That reminds me of the ghem-general in Cetaganda who wears no other medal but the coveted and rare Cetagandan Order of Merit.

As I read this chapter, it occured to me that animals are present in greater numbers and variety than in any of LMB's other books. Which makes sense, since this seems to be a pre-industrial society.

p.93, "Iselle had clapped her hands over her ears and steered her horse with her knees till she'd escaped the echo of her mother's extravagent grief." Confirmation of Iselle's riding skill.

p.93, "Cazaril, veteran of a number of hair-tearingly aggravating noble ladies' processions..." This phrase strikes me as awkward and over-complicated. Not sure how to say it differently, though.

There are 3 pairs of royals and Chancellors in the book: Ias and dy Lutez, Orico and dy Jironal, and Iselle and dy Cazaril (though Cazaril doesn't become Chancellor until the very end). If you want to be technical, you can include the Fox of Ibra and his Chancellor, but they affect the plot and theme far less.

Chapter 8:

Bujoldian bon mots p.117, "--it's peace, not war, that makes wealth for a country. War merely transfers possession of the residue from the weaker to the stronger."

p.117, "It's a wondrous transmutation, where the blood of one man is turned into the money of another. Lead into gold is nothing to it."

p.122, "It's easier to see the smudge on another's face than on one's own." Though Bujold is hardly the first to state this idea.

p.122, "Not safe to say. Merely true to think."

p.125, "Time to talk, and a man of wit and certain honor to talk with--double luxury."

Mule reference, p.117, ""His baggage train, returning to Cardegoss, took an hour to file through the gates." "I've had to deal with slow mules like that, too," murmured Cazaril, unimpressed."

Set-up and foreshadowing:
1. We see Cazaril's silliness with the crow at the beginning of the chapter and the way the same crow returns to him later.
2. The inadvertent display of Cazaril's back (the second one of the book).
3. Cazaril has a dream of a rat at the start of the chapter. An indication of the Bastard?
4. Cazaril's interest in Umegat is piqued.

p.118, "Conquest isn't the only way to unite peoples," Betriz pointed out. "There's marriage."

p.121, "Royina Sara seemed a ghost to Cazaril, pale and drifting, nearly invisible." I wonder if Cazaril still thinks that after he is able to see actual ghosts?

p.122, "They all know she must be sold out of court, probably out of Chalion altogether, and is not meat for them. Teidez will be their future livelihood." Heh, she said sadly.

p.124, "Even Cazaril had sworn himself a lay dedicat to the Son, in his youth--and unsworn himself, when..." The first mention of Cazaril's change of allegience.

p.124, "Palli was a natural, Cazaril thought with a grin, and had surely found his calling at last." By the end, Cazaril's devotion to the Daughter will equal or better Palli's.

General notes:

Do the missing tail feathers of the crow correspond to the missing fingertips of Cazaril's hand?

What is the source of Iselle's unease around any Roknari?

In chapter 7, Umegat is neater than Orico. In this chapter, the menagerie is tidier than Orico's banqueting hall. I grant you, the animals are probably a bit easier to control than the courtiers.

Crows are prominent in this chapter, both real and metaphorical.

p.125, "I take it by your very healthy appearence that your worries about the Jironals turned out to be groundless." Cazaril fell silent. The breeze through the embrasure was growing chill. Even the lovers across the courtyard had gone in. "I take care not offend either of the Jironals." he said finally." Nice atmospheric touch before Cazaril speaks in that passage.

Chapter 9 (This sure is Dondo's chapter isn't it?):

Cool quotes:
p.129, "The space he had vacated seemed to collapse around his absence, as if four men had just left."

p.130, "An insulting impiety, and a violation of the trust not only of the roya and the goddess above, but of all who are sworn to obey in their names below."

p.130, "Even a habitual liar may tell the truth from time to time, or an honest man may be tempted to lie by some extraordinary need." As Cazaril does at the end of the chapter?

p.131, "Nevertheless, liking and disliking do not constitute proof any more than hearsay does." I get the feeling that there is more to this than just the incident with mad Olus; I think there might have been another memorable time when Cazaril had to act as a witness, or determine some kind of justice that is giving rise to this caution. I have no text evidence to back up this impression.

General notes:
p.129: Palli vows he will not return except to Dondo's funeral and makes the fivefold sacred gesture. Is this the first time we witness it?

Dondo is actually chronologically older than Cazaril, though he appears younger.

p.132: Cazaril's caution isn't setting too well with Iselle by the end of their exchange, as evidenced by her use of "Castillar". He is caught between truth and caution when she challenges him for his opinion, and settles for speaking a lesser truth aloud.

p.134: The exchange between Iselle and Dondo is witty and courtly, but the most striking example of Bujold's subtlety comes just afterward: "Spots of color flared in Iselle's cheeks, and she lowered her eyes. Dondo's smile grew satisfied." We know without being told what is going through each of their minds and how little their thoughts match, though Cazaril's observations make it plain a few sentences later.

Interesting structure; the chapter begins with several people talking about Dondo in the morning. The middle portion of the chapter includes Dondo among others during midafternoon (not necessarily of the same day), and the chapter ends with Dondo and Cazaril conversing at night.

p.136, ""It is forgotten, my lord," The proximity of Dondo, as close as in Olus's tent, his slightly peculiar scent, brought it back in intense detail, blaring through Cazaril's memory..." Cazaril can certainly lie when he needs to

This chapter does much to strengthen the portrayal of Dondo as a villain in both the public (his misuse of his position in the Daughter's order) and the private realms (his attempted bribery of and veiled threats towards Cazaril).

Chapter 10:

Cool quotes:
p.141, "The merriment in her eyes was underscored by a glittering rage and sharp satisfaction."

p.152, "We're under siege here, aren't we. Me, Teidez, all our households."

p.153, "The Bastard is the most subtle of the gods, my lord. Merely because something is a trick, is no guarantee you are not god-touched."

Setup and foreshadowing:
1.We finally learn the full story behind Cazaril's flogging, setting up the
encounter with Bergon later.
2.This is the first clash of wills between Iselle and the Chancellor.
3.Cazaril gets the first sign that he is god-touched, which doesn't please him.

p.142, Cazaril after the pig incident: "He did not say aloud his reflection that the royse and royesse were the only people Dondo could not revenge himself upon."

General comments:
My heart warms to Cazaril, who likes to read in bed at night.

The pig at the beginning must indeed have been a young one if the page could carry it unaided.

Orico's initial indecision about the accusation against Cazaril can be interpreted on the first reading as a lack of will and wit. After we learn of the curse and its effects, his indecision takes on a different meaning, as does his solution to the impasse.

Dy Sanda has certainly got over his initial hostility towards Cazaril.

Umegat's conversation with Cazaril is a study in how to tell the truth and still leave a misleading impression. p.153, "What was your father in the Archipelago?" "Narrowminded. Very pious, though, in his foursquare way." Lots left unspoken, which the reader doesn't appreciate until the second time through.

The crow that singled out Cazaril in chapter 8 first comes to Umegat, then flies to Cazaril again. The crow chooses Umegat, which leads to its choosing Cazaril. This is one indication to me that the Bastard and the Daughter are working closely together to undo the curse.

Chapter 11:

Cool quotes:
p.159, "The Bastard was the god of last resort, ultimate, if ambiguous refuge for those who had made disasters of their lives."

p.161, "If my prince is fat, or squinty, or bald, or has a lip that hangs loose, so be it, but I will not be lied to in paint."

p.169, ""And what happens when courage makes no difference at all, at all?" I thought the only place that courage didn't matter was on a Roknari slave galley. I was wrong." The hints of futility and powerlessness in the last chapter flower fully in this chapter. One of the reasons I like Bujold's stories so much is that courage, honor, and other virtues do make a difference for the most part.

p.171, "Rat and crow only to carry the plea, candles only to light his way, herbs only to lift his heart with their scents, and compose his mind to purity of will; a will then put aside, laid wholehearted on the god's altar." I think this is the first explicit statement of this theme, which will become so important later.

p.172, "I really miss the flavor of a good, candle-roasted rat haunch." Heh. I've gotten favorable comments on this quote when I put it on a message board.

p.173, "His tower was a fraught place, sacred to the Bastard and his pets, especially at night, midnight in the cold rain."

p.175, "He must part with everything now, even regret. He kissed her hands, and fled." This last conversation between Betriz and Cazaril is very romantic and poignant to me.

p.176, "Lord Bastard, god of justice when justice fails, of balance, of all things out of season, of my need. For dy Sanda. For Iselle. For all who love her--Lady Betriz, Royina Ista, the old Provincara. For the mess on my back. For truth against lies. Receive my prayer."

Mule reference on page 155: Poor dy Sanda's body is brought back to the Zangre on a mule.

General notes:
Dy Sanda's funeral is used to convey information about funeral practices that will be crucial in the next chapter.

p.160, Some double-talk between Cazaril and the Baocian guard captain, who did take Dondo's emerald bribe.

p.161-163: The debate in Iselle's sub-household about her possible marriage is treat to read carefully, with all the false hints and actual foreshadowing.

p.163, On their way to the betrothal announcement, "Cazaril ducked as a certain foolish bird missing two feathers from its tail swooped down out of the drizzling mist past him, cawing Caz, Caz!" I had missed this appearance of Cazaril's self-assigned crow until now.

p.164-165: There is quite a contrast between Orico's announcement of Iselle's betrothal and Iselle's announcement of Cazaril's betrothal in chapter 29.

p.168, "...the furious undervoiced argument that raged between the thickset courtier and the red-haired maiden." Since when has Iselle been red-haired?

p.172, "And if he failed...there would still be Betriz and her knife." Simultaneous comfort and goad for Cazaril.

Betriz and Cazaril both show themselves ready to die in Iselle's service, Betriz with the knife to use against Dondo, Cazaril with the assassination attempts and the death magic. Cazaril seems to consider himself Betriz's protector as well as Iselle's.

p.176, "The candle flames guttered and died. The dark world darkened further and went out." The most atmospheric, dramatic chapter ending so far.

Despite the rather trapped, desperate tone to this chapter, there are still funny touches. I'm not positive about this, but I think every single chapter in the book has some kind of humor, though the humor does get macabre at times. It keeps the book as a whole from being gut-wrenchingly depressing, makes it a joy to the spirit as well as the intellect.

Chapter 12:

Cool quotes:
p.177, "I am not your breakfast. I'm sorry." Both an apology to the crows and a general expression of regret for the situation.

p.180, "...bound in ropes of pearls, chained in jewels, for her dreadful appointment with Dondo?"

p.183, "So we prepare today not for grievous wedding but joyous funeral."

p.187, "Her face was blank as though carved from an ice block, but her raiment was a shout of color..."

p.191, "Cazaril had never read much theology. For some reason now obscure to him, he'd thought it an impractical study, suited only to unworldly dreamers. Till he'd waked to this nightmare."

General notes:
p.179, as Cazaril is scrambling back to the main castle:"The fourth casement window swung open to his scrabbling fingers. It was the unused lumber room." What unused lumber room? That emphasized was seems to indicate that it was referred to earlier, but I can't find the reference.

p.182, "Cazaril's grimace tilted in appreciation of her delicacy in not inquiring, out loud before two witnesses, if he'd plotted a capital crime. He hardly needed to speak; her eyes blazed with speculation." We've seen Iselle's intelligence at work; now we see that Betriz is smart, too.

p.191, "The Roknari shone with a white aura like a man standing in front of a clear glass window at a sea dawn." along with, "Cazaril could not understand why they did not open before that bow wave of his white aura like the sea before a spinnaker-driven ship." Is it Cazaril or the author who associates Umegat (the archipelago-born Roknari) with the sea here?

p.192, Cazaril to Umegat: "Do you know that you are lit like a burning torch?" p.193, Umegat to Cazaril: "You are lit like a burning city." (You are the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Matthew, chapter 5, verses 14-15. Did LMB mean to evoke that bible verse?) This is an interesting pair of images. Torches are supposed to burn, indeed, are made to burn; cities are not. If a city is burning, something is very wrong. The longer Cazaril, lit like a burning city, bears his burdens of sainthood, the frailer he becomes physically.

Cazaril gets his first glimpse of the curse, with the auras around Orico and his family.

p.183, "Bless the poor soul who put his vile plans in such disarry....May the Bastard's demons grant him whatever mercy they can." Iselle blesses Cazaril, though she doesn't know it.

p.185-186: The exchange between Betriz and Cazaril never refers out loud to Cazaril's attempt at death magic, though they both know he made one. The unspoken knowledge gives the conversation an extra layer of meaning.

When did Cazaril become Caz?

p.190-191, "If Dondo's spirit had not been taken by the servant-demon back to its master, where was it? And if the demon could not return except with both its soul-buckets filled, where was the sundered soul of Dondo's unknown murderer now? For that matter, where was the demon?" Heh. All in the same place, Cazaril.

p.191, "...Cazaril felt flensed." I had to look up that one in the dictionary.

It occurs to me that apart from the personal and place names and a few titles, there is no made-up language in this book (we hear of languages like Darthacan and Roknari, but we don't see any of the actual words).

Chapter 13:

Bujoldian bon mots:
p.196-197, "This is the most wit-full man I have met in Cardegoss, and I've spent the last three months looking past him because he wears a servant's garb."

p.198, "But, personally, I think it is not so much the growth of virtue, as simply the replacement of prior vices with an addiction to one's god."

p.198, "The gods love their great-souled men and women as an artist loves fine marble, but the issue isn't virtue. It is will. Which is chisel and hammer."

p.199, "A saint is not a virtuous soul, but an empty one. He--or she--freely gives the gift of their will to their god. And in renouncing action, makes action possible."

p.204, "Well, what is a blessing but a curse from another point of view?"

p.205, "The gods do not grant miracles for our purposes, but for theirs. If you are become their tool, it is for a greater reason, an urgent reason. But you are the tool. You are not the work. Expect to be valued accordingly." Chilling statement, that.

General comments:
Unlike most of the other chapters, this one is all one scene, much of it dialogue.

Ordol's Five-fold Pathway of the Soul makes another appearance. (and how I want to visit Chalion so I can read that book!)

Umegat, like Cazaril, is a reading man (the shelf of books, the clear bright candles).

p.197, "My lover was about thirty then. A man of keen mind and kind heart." Such a simple, poignant tribute from Umegat.

The stories hinted at in Umegat's brief history could fill several books. He's been lordling, lover, refugee, acolyte, divine, inquirer, spy, groom, and saint.

Umegat's explanation of the curse and how it came about is one of those peculiar things that makes more sense to my subconscious mind than to my conscious mind. The minute I try to analyse it, or even put it into words, it dissolves.

p.203, Umegat's explanation of what happened to Dondo's soul is all theory; he says, "It is my conjecture" and "If I am right". Not that I don't think he's right, he more than anyone else can speak with authority about this situation.

p.205, Cazaril says, "I am not a saint!" Heh. The most famous wrong statement of all.

A poem for Umegat:

I here; you there--
But under those eyes, space is all-where.

I alive; you dead--
But under those eyes, all-time is spread.

I alone--
But under those eyes, all things are joined;
All sorrow, and all beauty, and all spirit,
Are one.

(This is "Elegy under the Stars" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, found in The Unicorn and Other Poems)

Chapter 14:

Cool quotes:
p.207, "Cazaril had to allow Umegat's wine this much merit--it did mean he spent the first few hours of the next morning wishing for death rather than dreading it."

p.209, "Not metaphor or madness after all, it appeared but simple observation. How much else, then, of the eerie things she'd said might be not derangement, but plain truth--seen with altered eyes?" Another definition of double-talk?

p.219, "All royses are always described as handsome, unless they're absolutely grotesque. Then it's said they have character."

p.220, "I cannot, will not, leave my fate to drift downstream to another disastrous falls and make no push to steer it."

Humor, p.211, "...unless a man could dither himself to death, he wasn't going to die this afternoon."

General comments:
We get the first explanation of ghosts in this chapter.

Cazaril's haunting/possession keeps getting more unpleasant.

For some reason, I'm noticing metaphorical language more than usual in this chapter:
p.210, "...the Lady of Spring has chosen a sharp-edged tool."
p.211, "The chancellor is the tongs by wich the roya attempts to handle all
matters of state..."
p.212, speaking of the ghosts: "...clustered about him like cold children
crowding a hearth"
p.214, "The Fox is rumored to be most wroth with Chalion for stirring the
pot and keeping it boiling, not that the Heir needed help putting wood on
that fire."
p.217, "...plots will swirl about me."

Iselle is at times very good at eloquent non-verbal gestures; p. 220 her hand on the map scattering the pins from the Roknari area is one example.

Chapter 15:

Cool quotes:
p.228, "But the gods are parsimonious, and take their chances where they can find them."

p.229, "Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent to you. Not even your life."

p.229, "I must trust my reason, or why else did the goddess choose a reasonable man for Iselle's guardian?"

p.238, "I fear I am afflicted with the goddess's own internal politics just now."

General comments:
On page 221 there is a nice echo of sounds in one of the sentences: eerie shadows...weary sadness.

p.223, "Orico skipped to his next evasion like a man crossing stepping-stones on a stream," This is a strange image for someone of Orico's girth and ill-health.

p.223, When Orico promises Iselle no marriage without her prior acordance and Sara doesn't-quite-snort, what is she thinking of? Does she know of the changes to Orico's will, or is she thinking of something else? Orico's pretty good at double-talking, too.

p.226, "She is not another Sara." "Neither was Sara, once." Sara becomes more interesting in this chapter, particularly when she tells Iselle about the changes to the will and the truth of Dondo's ugly boasts.

p.227, Umegat tells us more about the nature of the curse.

p.234, "He must have the wit to gain you the strongest possible position in negotiation with Ibra, the suppleness to avoid offending Chalion, nerve to pass in disguise across uneasy borders, strength for travel, loyalty to you and you alone, and courage in your cause that must not break." More foreshadowing, though if Cazaril had known he was speaking of himself, he might not have used such glowing terms.

The ghosts of the Zangre seem ineffectual, powerless; the ghosts we see later at castle Zavar are much less so.

Chapter 16: In Which Rojeras Fails To Reassure Cazaril, Cazaril Fails To Reassure Teidez, And Cazaril's Inner Bad-Ass Fails To Reassure Anybody.

Cool quotes:
p.244, "How can the royesse choose good actions without good knowledge?"

p.250, "The confusion of mind you dub honor is a disease, for which the Roknari galley-masters have the cure."

p.253, "...the thing in his belly reaching out to twist and taunt and trick him into death, and its own release..."

General notes:
p.242, Cazaril is clearly not completely resigned to his fate, as evidenced by his asking about having the "tumor" cut out.

p.243, "As long as you grasp that this is not a license to exert yourself unduly," Rojeras returned sternly. "You are plainly in need of more rest than you have allowed yourself." Part of the delight of this scene is the mingling of truth and error in Rojeras's various statements and conclusions. Cazaril would be happy to allow himself rest, but Dondo won't let him. Rojeras is certainly a dedicated physician and researcher.

Alas, we don't see Rojeras again, despite his stated wish for a weekly examination of Cazaril.

p.248, "His eyes were uncertain, untrusting, and, Cazaril thought, strangely lonely. "I see," he said in a bleak tone, and turned on his heel to march out. His low-voiced mutter carried back from the corrider, "I must do it myself..." This is mysterious on the first read and heartbreaking thereafter when you know just what Teidez is planning to do.

Ser dy Maroc, no longer a dupe, is now the voice of reason in the encounter between Cazaril and dy Joal, calling Cazaril back from disastrous madness. Dy Maroc is Cazaril's saviour, keeping him from the murder that would have freed Dondo. Does Cazaril realize this?

Cazaril's berserk moment with dy Joal reminds me a little of Cordelia's attack on Mehta in Shards of Honor. Cordelia never loses herself as Cazaril nearly does, though. She's also less vicious in victory, though you could argue that the viciousness was Dondo's or the demon's.

Chapter 17:

Cool quotes:
p.256, Cazaril contemplates the Zangre ghosts: "...what a cold and lonely damnation was their slow erosion, loss of all that had made them individual men and women. What must it be like, to feel one's very spirit slowly rot away around one, as flesh rotted from dead limbs?"

p.259, "I think the gods do not calculate greatness as men do. I for one find a casual destruction of a man's life even more repugnant than a determined one."

p.268, "And whose fault was it that the boy swallowed down lies, when no one would feed him the truth?"

p.255, "Dondo's green stone glinted on the guard captain's hand, raised to return Cazaril's polite salute." The captain who is accompanying Teidez to the menagerie slaughter. On the same page, Cazaril is prevented from reaching Orico by his worst cramp yet, almost certainly Dondo's work.

p.259, "It was normally considered bad manners to denigrate the dead, on the theory that they could not defend themselves. In Dondo's case, Cazaril wasn't so sure."

p.259, "Not like the treason of Lord dy Lutez." "That was never well proved, even at the time." Anticipating Ista's explanation of what really happened.

General notes:
p.260, Coming from the Daughter's council, Palli says, "I've not forgotten your tale of poor Ser dy Sanda." then, on page 264 looking at the slain leopard, "Cazaril thought of dy Sanda's pierced corpse.

p.264, How does Cazaril know the saint of the Mother is going to do Umegat any good, or is he just going on instinct? Does Clara do anything special for Umegat or is this convenient device to bring the two remaining saints together?

p.265, "Cazaril was so overcome, he stamped in a circle." His most Miles-like moment.

Teidez's gradually growing self-doubt and dismay is nicely shown, as is Cazaril's self-blame.

Cazaril, the "voice of caution" in council, is given bitter proof that one can be too cautious sometimes.

The question is raised of how much Dondo knew about the curse.

p.260-261, Cazaril muses on the ways the curse has corrupted Martou's virtues, not realizing how badly Teidez's virtues are being twisted right at that moment. Chilling.

Chapter 18:

Bujoldian bon mots:
p.271, "If he'd been more filled with truth, he'd have had less room for lies."

p.274, "When a pious ordinary man finds himself in a room with three working saints--if he has any wits left--he seeks intruction, he does not feign to instruct."

p.278, "Only the saints would joke so about the gods, because it was either joke or scream, and they alone knew it was all the same to the gods."

p.280, "The world demands I make good choices on no information, and then blames my maidenhood for my mistakes, as if my maidenhood were responsible for my ignorance. Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be."

Mule reference, p.277, "The Lady of Spring must love you dearly." "As a teamster loves his mule that carries his baggage," said Cazaril bitterly, "whipping it over the high passes." Is it any coincidence that two chapters later Cazaril is sent on a long journey taking him over high passes?

General remarks:
It occurs to me that none of the saints we meet are young people.

p.271, "I fail to see the secret of her pernicious attachment to you, but I mean to cut that connection." Is this just posturing on Martou's part, or genuine uncomprehension?

The whole conversation between Cazaril and Mendenal leaves me either snickering or wincing. Or both at once; for example, p.278: "When he forced the words from his tongue at last, they came out a hoarse whisper. "I am very frightened." "Oh," said the archdivine after a long moment. "Ah. Yes, I...I see that it would be...Oh, if only Umegat would wake up!"

p.282, Betriz uses the metaphor of pregnancy to refer to Cazaril's possession. Does this mean he gives birth by C-section at the end? On the same page, Cazaril thinks "And so we bear our sins." As we bear our children?

p.283, "If Ista had seen the ghosts of the Zangre for herself, she must have been lent the second sight for a time. What did this imply?" So we are reminded of Ista a few chapters before the crucial conversation between her and Cazaril.

p.283-284, Iselle's full formal kisses of submission to Cazaril. I mentioned earlier her gift for an eloquent gesture. This is the most eloguent; if I wanted a film version of Chalion, it would be for this moment. Paradoxically, this is when Iselle seems her most royal to me.

Chapter 19:

Cool quotes:
p.292, "The coolly resisted breakdown, having breached Umegat's walls in this unguarded spot, poured through, and the man wept--not like a child. No child's sobs were ever this terrifying."

p.293, "Someone could still read books aloud to you..." Umegat's eyes met those of the tongueless groom, who was standing to one side still holding the Ordol. The old man scrubbed his fist across his mouth and made an odd noise down in his throat, a whimper of pure despair. Tears were running from the corners of his eyes down his seamed face. Umegat's breath puffed from his lips, and he shook his head; drawn from his trouble by its reflection in that aged face, he reached across to grip the undergroom's hand. "Sh. Sh. Aren't we a pair, now." He sighed, and sank back on his pillows. "Never say the Bastard has no sense of humor." Ohhhh. Such a beautifully painful passage.

p.293, "I've seen people lose speech, lose control of half their body but not the other half. Are they punished? If so, the gods are evil, and that I do not believe. I think it is chance."

p.296, "Hey!" said Palli indignantly. "When have I failed?" "Never, Palli. That's why I thought of you."

p.297, "Your reverence, I do not hate any man in this world enough to inflict the results of my prayers upon him."

p.300, "Everyone fell silent in the face of that silence."

General notes:
This is the soberest, saddest chapter so far.

p.298, "...Cazaril wondered if Orico had pulled a fast one with his betrothal gift..." Most of the language in the book keeps me in the secondary world of Chalion and its neighbors, but that expression (pull a fast one) threw me right out. It is pure twentieth-century to my ear.

Martou is evidently not so far gone in treason as Dondo was; he seeks to control the royal family, but not take their lives, though he has no such scruples about their households.

p.291, "So, this was what a faithful servant of the gods, heroic and beloved, ended up looking like." Is this simple observation or Cazaril being bitter?

Teidez's death makes the third in Cardegoss. Dy Sanda's death was alarming to the protagonists, Dondo's death was a huge relief, but Teidez's death is a disaster, both personally and politically.

Chapter 20:

Cool quotes:
p.303, "In the meantime, I will insist that Teidez be buried in Valenda, his beloved home." "Teidez couldn't wait to get out of Valenda." Snicker.

p.304, "But if I seize my ground from the very first instant, I will never have to wrest it back. You taught me that."

p.305, "Curse or no curse, I will not be Martou dy Jironal's bridled mare to ride to his spurring."

p.305, "Cazaril could see it in her eyes, could see armies with pennoned lances writhing in the black dark hanging around her like a pall of smoke from a burning town."

p.306, "My heart is willing. But my body is occupied territory, half-laid waste." Thus speaks the old campaigner.

General notes:

p.304, "Think it through." Iselle echoes Cazaril from an earlier chapter.

How do Iselle and Betriz conceal the fact that a significant amount of money and jewelry has disappeared from their household along with Cazaril? I assume he would have recorded all the valuble gifts and so forth in the inventories, which Martou's spies would certainly try to view.

p.308, Ordol's Fivefold Pathway pops up again. A book presumably written to decipher the ways of the gods will be used to cipher and decipher messages between Cazaril and Iselle.

p.309, I predict Palli is going to go far as a courtier if he continues to be as quick to take advantage of any opportunity as he is here (seeking Iselle's opinion of dy Yarrin as General for the Daughter's order).

p.310, "Hello, boys," said Palli smoothly. "I have a little task for you." Power of the unspoken: we immediately know what that task is, even though he never says it.

p.313, Double-talk between Martou and Cazaril as Cazaril is leaving Cardegoss: ""Well, we'll watch for you." I wager you will."

p.302-303, "Unequal to the task though Cazaril felt himself to be, whatever she asked of him in her grief and devastation he must undertake to supply." Cazaril thinks Iselle wants help with the letter to Ista; in fact, that is one of the few tasks she does not require of him.

Betriz's worry for Cazaril appears unfounded on the journey to Ibra, though Ferda and Foix prove very useful on the way back to Chalion.

p.314, "He'd turned over in his mind all the disasters that might follow failure; what would be his fate if he succeeded? What did the gods do with used saints?" Foreshadowing!

p.314, "The road opened before them....Vanishing into uncertainty." As uncertain as the success of their mission? Nice touch. There have been some very cool ending lines in this book.

Chapter 21:

Cool quotes:
p.320, "...saint to saint and soul to soul, for this floating moment it was an intimacy stranger and more soaring than lover to lover."

p.322, ""Except his reputation. His public honor." An honor that had been all in all to proud dy Lutez; who had valued all his wealth and glory but as outward signs of it." Compare this with Aral's distinction between reputation and honor in A Civil Campaign.

p.325, "Just tell the truth. Tell people you are pregnant with a demon and a ghost, and you have a tumor that talks vilely to you, and the gods guard your steps, and see what happens next."

p.330, "Yet his new eyes rendered familiar places strange again; the world made strange as he was remade over and over, and no place to rest at last."

General notes:
Several echoes of earlier phrases or sentences in this chapter:
p.316, "Cazaril felt huge and awkward and filthy in this dainty sitting room." An echo of chapter 4, p.50: "Never had he felt more repulsively male--uncouth, clumsy, and degraded." p.317, Ista asks if Teidez came by his fatal wound hunting; an echo of Cazaril's inquiring of Teidez in chapter 17: "Do you hunt?" before the menagerie slaughter. p.325, Ista says of Iselle, "One more hostage to go." echoing her statement in chapter 6, "My children are prisoners of fortune."

p.319, Ista says that Ias had always known of the curse. How did he find out?

Bujold has never written a character to equal Bothari; however, the story of dy Lutez's death evokes a similar emotional reaction in me, an uncomfortable mixture of sympathy and revulsion.

p.325, "His hands were shaking from fatigue and hunger. Among other things." Power of the unspoken--the other things are not detailed.

p.328, "I shall say prayers for that unknown benefactor!" "Indeed Your Grace. I pray for him daily." Double-talk between the Provincara and Cazaril.

Chapter 22:

Bujoldian bon mots:
p.339, "Cazaril had no doubt he'd put the man's wits to the gallop. For his own wits he now prayed for wings."

p.340, "Any man can be kind when he is comfortable. I'd always thought kindness a trivial virtue, therefore."

p.340, "Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice--if not whether, then how, they may endure."

p.342, "What is this astonishing foolishness, that shines brighter than all my father's gold? Can you teach me to be such a fool too, Caz?"

p.345, "Why sir. I believe she will give me an estate in Chalion that will suit me perfectly. One pace wide and two paces long, to be mine in perpetuity."

p.349, "Prayer, he suspected as he hoisted himself up and turned for the door, was putting one foot in front of the other. Moving all the same."

Mule references:
At the start of the chapter, Cazaril and the dy Guras obtain and ride mules over the mountain passes between Chalion and Ibra. Cazaril asks the Daughter for good mules, which she appears to grant, and gives Ferda and Foix another story to tell about him, though he doesn't realize it for some time. Don't know if, "the mule's gentle amble didn't churn his guts." is anything significant or not. p.347, "Was he nothing but a puppet on a string? Or was that, a mule on a rope, balky and stubborn, to be whipped along?" p.349, "Maybe the gods had learned from Ista's mistake, from dy Lutez's failure of nerve, as well? Maybe they were making sure their mule couldn't desert in the middle like dy Lutez this time...?"

General notes:
p.333, "The salt-and-sea-wrack smell of low tide, wafting inland on a cold breeze, made Cazaril's head jerk back. Foix inhaled deeply, his eyes alight with fascination as he drank in his first sight of the sea." An economical depiction of their very different emotional reactions to the sea.

Cazaril's fear and dislike for the sea is understandable, given his experiences, but it is still peculiar to identify with a character who dislikes something that I like so well.

p.336, "The long far wall was pierced with a row of doors with square windowpanes set top to bottom, giving onto a balcony-cum-battlement that in turn overlooked the harbor and shipyard..." Zagosur must wealthy indeed to be able to afford all that glass. Isn't it a weak spot for a fortress to have so much?

We finally learn in this chapter that Royse Bergon and the slave boy Danni are the same person. Bergon demands that Cazaril display his back not to shame him, but to prove Cazaril's identity and claim him as rescuer and friend. For once, the truth is publically known about the scars on his back.

p.338, "Cazaril's lips twisted, as he watched the Fox trying to work out just what this made Cazaril, hero or fool." Shades of Miles in The Vor Game, wondering whether he's claimed to be brilliant or idiotic after Metzov's nerve disruptor attack.

I wonder if Iselle knew that Cazaril would tell Bergon nearly everything about the curse?

Bergon makes it clear in his private conversation that Cazaril not only saved his body on the galley, but his spirit as well.

I very much like Cazaril's statement on p.344 that, "we maintain the risk is reciprocal, and so must be the clause. Iselle bears the risks of childbirth, which Bergon never will."

The idea of a dying man being used as an unbribeable ambassador seems familiar, but I can't remember where I might have read it.

p.347, "But her hands had kept moving, all the same." This brings to mind Harra's counsel to Miles, in Memory: "You go on. You just go on. That's all there is to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on." (I don't have the book in front of me, so the quote may be inaccurate).

p.348, "And thought of how he'd schemed, and temporized, and exhorted his men to faithfulness, plugged holes fought sorties scraped for unclean food bloodied his sword at the scaling ladders and above all, prayed." Is the lack of commas between clauses deliberate? If so, it's a nice touch, showing how it all blurs together in his mind.

On p.339, Cazaril wonders what the Fox had heard of Gotorget, which makes me wonder what kinds of stories people might be telling about Cazaril. Palli mentions some of them, but surely there are others.

When I was a teenager, the word "fox" was used to describe a good-looking, sexy young man or woman. I have no trouble with the Fox's nickname (indicating cleverness, slyness, and a certain disregard for ethics) but every so often as I read, the alternate, teenage meaning pops into my head, and the discrepancy amuses me mightily.

Chapters 23 and 24:

Cool quotes:
p.354, "Dy Sould grew no worse, reassuring Cazaril of his diagnosis. Cazaril grew no better, but then, he didn't expect to."

p.360, "What dire urgency was it that turned it from the open arms of the goddess to cling to this wounded world?"

p.369, "And when we fail, the gods do, too."

p.370, "She would have many, not least Bergon himself, to protect her from her enemies, although advisors wise enough to also protect her from her friends might be harder for her to come by..."

p.378, "If two sides, both cursed, struck against each other in civil war, it was perfectly possible for both sides to lose. It would be the perfect culmination of the Golden General's death gift for all of Chalion to collapse in upon itself in such agony."

Mule reference, p.355, Cazaril warns Bergon, "'Ware bowman, " he breathed. "Duck under a mule." p.369, ""I hear you do miracles with mules." "Not me. The goddess." Cazaril's smile twisted. "She has a way with mules, it seems."

p.351, "Cazaril wasn't even sure if this had been meant for his eyes, or only for those of the gods, but he touched the tiny cipher secretly to the five sacred points, lingering a little on his lips, before leaving his chamber to seek Bergon." Cazari acts romantic.

p.355, On their way to castle Zavar: "Away, through the trees, Cazaril could hear the distant squabbling and cawing of a flock of crows, and was comforted in memory." This is a throwaway line on the first read; it's only on the second read that it assumes an ugly significance, when the reader knows what the crows are squabbling over.

p.356-357 Poor Cazaril, attacked from without and within at the same time!

Cazaril seems a little out of it right after dy Joal's death, talking to the ghosts and not seeming to care who hears him do it, (p.358, 360). Clearly, Ferda and Foix are storing up tales about him.

Cazaril is in notably worse physical shape in chapter 24 even with the Daughter's blessing protecting him; the death demon might have had its way if things had gone on much longer.

p.366, "I promise you I can pass for a road vagabond." Harking back to the first chapter and Cazaril's circumstances.

p.370, "Cazaril swallowed, and with an effort at a casual tone got out, "Couldn't you just see her as the future Marchess dy Palliar?"" Subtle, Caz.:) He tried to recommend Palli to Betriz back before he asked for the death miracle. p.371, "He wondered if he could promote Palli to her if he put it as the last request of a dying man." The way he did before?

p.374, We get another hint of how the curse might twist Iselle's strengths (when she almost demands the full kisses of submission), though Cazaril helps thwart it.

p.377, Betriz says, "Or at least, people stop arguing with you about what's possible and what's not." One wonders just what kind of arguments she had had to prompt that observation.

Chapter 25:

Cool quotes:
p.382, "The scent of the orange blossoms pooled in the shalter of the court, seeming to mix with the honey in his mouth."

p.383, "The Daughter of Spring might have breathed out today's air, but it was still Old Winter's water."

p.384, "While you have spent yourself trying to save Iselle...have you discovered how to save yourself?"

p.384, "But if an hour is all the gift the gods give us, all the more insult to the gods to scorn it."

p.384, "I'd storm heaven for you if I know where it was."

p.392, "With blackness boiling up around them both like smoke from a burning ship."

General comments:
p.382, Betriz makes a point of providing food for Cazaril, as she did in chapter 12 the morning after Dondo's death.

p.388, Paginine uses the phrase "god-afflicted" to describe his and Cazaril's condition, which is a clue to the ambiguity of the gods' gifts.

p.388, ""Sometimes--not every time--He permits me to know who is lying in my justiciar's chamber and who is telling the truth." Paginine hesitated. "It doesn't always do as much good as you'd think."" This is reminiscent of The Mountains of Mourning, where it was not enough to have a truth drug, Miles also had to know who to use it on and what questions to ask.

All of Cazaril's hope of lifting the curse, expressed in several previous chapters, meets the worst setback at the end of this chapter (I haven't saved Iselle. I've cursed Bergon).

Chapter 26:

Cool quotes:
p.394, "When two become wed, it doesn't mean that one disappears and only the other remains. We are joined, not subsumed."

p.394, "With the right to rule came the duty to protect--the privilege of receiving protection had to be left behind with childhood's other toys." An echo of the Provincara's aphorism from chapter 2.

p.400, "Too great a care could be as fatal as too great a carelessness when the moment came to hazard all."

p.402, "How much frustration, how much corrosion could a loyal man endure before going mad, watching such a long slow drain of youth and hope into age and despair?"

p.404, "Perhaps heaven was not a place, but merely an angle of view, a vantage, a perspective."

p.405, "Dondo did not desire the gods. Dondo was a clot of self-will, a leaden plug, digging into his body with claws like grappeling hooks."

General notes:
p.395, "Bergon gazed at his new wife as if his eyes could swallow her. He finally said huskily, "What about me?"" Pardon me while I squee like a little fangirl over Bergon's devotion and courage (he's so COOL!!!). And over Iselle in the next sentence, emphatically refusing to sacrifice either Bergon or Cazaril.

p.397, Iselle says, "I should be by Orico, if this proves to be his deathbed." Is this political savvy or dutiful sisterhood? Or both?

While Iselle, Bergon, and Cazaril are planning their submission to Orico, he is almost certainly dead (Martou claims that he died the day before the wedding, Sara and Mendenal claim that he died the day after, I think).

Drowning imagery appears again in this chapter.

All the talk about Martou striking at Taryoon or Valenda and the royal couple making for Cardegoss by way of Valenda (or not) makes a fine red herring.

p.400-401, Iselle says, "Uncle, Lord dy Palliar if it please you send out what men you can find to ride in all directions for news of dy Jironal's movements. And then we'll see what new information we have by tomorrow night, and take a final decision then." Little do they know what kind of information they will have, and how greatly it will affect their decisions.

The pairing of matter versus spirit is made explicit in Cazaril's musings at the end of the chapter. The pairing has been hinted at in previous chapters, but never so plainly as here.

Variations on a theme by LMB:
"The solution had been lying around him in pieces all this time, invisible until he'd changed. He grinned dementedly, possessed. He yielded himself up to it without reservation. All. All. There was no limit to what one man might do, if he gave all and held back nothing." (Falling Free, p.136-137)

"Real destiny takes everything---the last drop of blood and strip out your veins to be sure---and gives it back doubled. Quadrupled. A thousand-fold! But you can't give halves. You have to give it all." (Mirror Dance, hardcover edition, p.331)

"If only you were willing to betray a trust, why the most amazing range of possible actions opened up to you." (Komarr, hardcover edition, p.106)

"When he could speak truth, and was no longer constrained to concealment and lies, the possibilities opened up startlingly. There was so much more to say..." (A Civil Campaign, hardcover edition, p.231)

And the climax of this chapter:
"It wasn't a case of storming heaven. It was a case of letting heaven storm you. Could an old siege-master learn to surrender, to open his gates? Into your hands, O lords of light, I commend my soul. Do what you must to mend the world. I am at your service." (Curse of Chalion, p.405)

Chapter 27: In Which Cazaril Suffers A Defeat, Aids In A Victory, And Contemplates A Pebble.

Cool quotes:
p.407, "He howled inside with the waste of it, mad with regret that he could not die enough.

p.408, "He still didn't know who they were but he had no doubt whose they were."

p.409-410, "This was a landscape of soul-stuff; colors he could not name, of a shattering brilliance bore him up upon a glorious turbulence." (Here soar/With more than wing/Above earth's floor;/Here ride/Limitless on a tide/No hawk has ever tried) The lines in the parentheses are from "Ascent" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

p.410, "Souls gestated by matter in the world, dying into this strange new birth."

p.412, "Matter invented so many forms, and then went on to generate beauty beyond itself, minds and souls rising up out of it like melody from an instrument...matter was an amazement to the gods. Matter remembered itself so very clearly."

p.415, "He'd been swimming in miracle every day of his life and hadn't even known it."

Mule reference, p.413: "So that when he came at last to this one, he could offer the goddess a smooth and steady partnering...humbling parallels involving the training of mules offered themselves to his mind." Cazaril musing on why 3 deaths were required.

General notes:
I found myself thinking of Passage by Connie Willis, and all the near-death experiences her main character recounts. I wonder what she (either Willis or the character) would think of Cazaril's?

From the exciting, deadly clash in the material world, we are led to the even more overwhelming partnership in the spiritual world. If Martou had not struck to kill Cazaril, he might not have lost his own life that day. Would Cazaril have fulfilled his destiny of breaking the curse without Martou?

p.415, Cazaril asks Betriz to kiss him before he allows the sword to be drawn out, making her question in chapter 15 a prophetic one ("must you believe you are about to die in order to bring yourself to kiss a lady?")

Flowers are a frequent image in this chapter, associated with the goddess of Spring, even in some peculiar situations: p.410, "Dy Jironal's sword blade was just emerging from his back. Blood bloomed around the metal point like a rose."

Chapter 28:

Cool quotes:
p.420, "I don't know how to open my mouth and push out the universe in words. It won't fit. If I had all the words in all the languages in the world that ever were or will be, and spoke till the end of time, it still couldn't..."

p.420, ""I have not the words for what I saw. Talking about it is like trying to weave a box of shadows in which to carry water." And all our souls are parched."

p.423, "If matter that gets up and walks about, like you, is miraculous, how much more is matter that gets up and flies!"

p.423, "Oh it is a great infection of poetry, a contagion of hymns." Still the most Shakespearean of Bujold quotes for me.

p.424, "I promise you, I do not understand anything anymore. I am gloriously bewildered."

p.424, "I thought in poetry the words might bear more freight, exist on both sides of the wall between the worlds, as people do."

p.428, "Cazaril imagined it, her daylong secret deathwatch beside the gelid bloated corpse of her husband. What had she thought about, what had she reflected upon, as the hours crept by in that sealed chamber? And yet she had made of horror a pragmatic gift for Iselle and Bergon, for the House of Chalion that she was departing. He pictured her suddenly as a tidy housewife, sweeping out her old familiar rooms for the last time, and leaving a vase of flowers on the hearth for the new owners." The quote that made me admire and wonder about Sara yet again.

Mule reference: On p.426, mules are carrying the baggage of Sara's household away from Cardegoss.

General notes:
p.419-420, Cazaril has to explain the full story of Dondo, the demon, and the curse to Palli, Paginine, and the archdivine of Taryoon. It's a bit startling to realize in passages like this one that not everyone knows the whole story of Cazaril's possession and sainthood, not to mention the curse.

p.421, Bergon says, of their proposed barefoot pilgrimage, "We shall watch out for each other's steps the whole way." which is also an auspicious beginning for their marriage and reign.

Cazaril seems to be luxuriating in not having to strive and strain in this chapter. For example: "...his horizontal paradise of clean linens and stillness.", "...gave himself over to a most delicious idleness.", "...smiled with lazy delight."

p.424, Cazaril says "Action can be prayer, too.", echoing his conclusion from chapter 22 that prayer was putting one foot in front of the other.

p.426, "At length, the distant Zangre again rose before his eyes. Against the backdrop of puffy white clouds, blue sky, and green fields, it seemed a rich ornament to the landscape." Contrast this with the initial description of the Zangre in chapter 7, brooding against dark clouds, all fortress and no palace. Nice symbolism.

p.427, Double-talk between Sara and Cazaril about Orico's death day; see the quote above. Cazaril has no trouble hearing what Sara doesn't say.

Chapter 29:

Bujoldian bon mots:
p.436, "It seemed that if a man was god-touched, and yet not pushed altogether off-balance, it left him mysteriously centered thereafter."

p.437, "I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight, and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name."

p.438, "Well, it is a particular sin to permit grief for what is gone to poison the praise for what blessings remain to us."

p.441, "I realize now why I never saw saints, before. The world does not crash upon their wills like waves upon a rock, or part around them like the wake of a ship. Instead they are supple, and swim through the world as silently as fishes."

p.442, "When the souls rise up in glory, yours shall not be shunned nor sundered, but shall be the prize of the gods' gardens. Even your darkness shall be treasured then, and all your pain made holy." An excellent blessing for Sergeant Bothari as well as Ista.

General notes:
p.431, "I am Learned Bonneret..." Learned seems to be a semi-official title; Umegat is called Learned twice, on p.275 and on p.438.

One wonders what Bonneret has been hearing from people to make him react in such a manner to Cazaril's name.

p.432, "If Bergon was not a joy to the god, there was no pleasing Him at all." Cazaril's fondness for Bergon shows itself.

p.434, This is the third betrothal of the book. One hopes it will end like Iselle and Bergon's, and not like Iselle and Dondo's.

Cazaril's protests against the betrothal start to feel like too much. The humility is no longer touching, but irritating.

p.441, Both Umegat and Ista are still recovering from their various experiences with the curse; it would be fascinating to listen in on their conversations, assuming Cazaril succeeds in getting them to meet.

p.441, Ista says, "I should prefer to go somewhere that I have never been before. Not Valenda. Not Cardegoss. Someplace with no memories." Is this foreshadowing for the next book?

As I was thinking about the novel as a whole, I noticed a pairing of ideas that I don't think got mentioned before: reason and madness. Cazaril considers himself a man of reason; he is grateful for fear because he sees it as a sign of returning sanity; he is distressed at the thought that madness will render him useless or a burden to Iselle. Cazaril's view of Ista changes from madwoman to suffering sane woman. I wondered about making a case for reason versus faith, but I couldn't quite work it out.

© 2002 by Tammy Nott
Added to The Bujold Nexus: October 24th 2002

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