The Curse of Chalion

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The Curse of Chalion
The curse of chalion cover.jpg
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
AuthorLois McMaster Bujold
Cover artistDoug Beekman
CountryUnited States
PublisherEos (HarperCollins)
Publication date
August 2001
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback), E-book
Pages442 pp (hardcover)
502 pp (mass–market paperback)
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3552.U397 C87 2001
Followed byPaladin of Souls 

The Curse of Chalion is a 2001 fantasy novel by American writer Lois McMaster Bujold. In 2002 it won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and was nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Locus Fantasy Awards in 2002.[1]

Both The Curse of Chalion and its sequel Paladin of Souls (2003) are set in the landlocked medieval kingdom of Chalion. The prequel The Hallowed Hunt (2005) takes place in the Weald to the south of Chalion and two to three hundred years earlier.

Plot summary[edit]

Lupe dy Cazaril, a former castillar (master of a castle; a knight or minor baron), returns home to the Royacy (Kingdom) of Chalion a broken man, though he is only 35 years old. "Caz", as he is known to his friends, had defended a border fortress in service to the Roya (king) during a long siege, only to be ordered to surrender it. Afterward, a jealous enemy ensured that Caz would not be ransomed (as were the rest of his men), but instead sold into slavery, spending 19 months as a galley slave before finally being rescued.

His old noble patroness finds a use for him as secretary-tutor to her granddaughter, the 15-year-old Royesse (Princess) Iselle - half-sister to Orico, Roya (King) of Chalion - and her companion, 19-year-old Lady Betriz. Caz finds himself attracted to Betriz.

Despite his ardent desire to live a safely low-profile, peaceful life, Caz finds himself drawn into political and spiritual dangers when Iselle and her younger brother Teidez, heir to the childless Orico, are ordered to join their half-brother's court. There, Caz encounters his betrayer, Dondo dy Jironal, the debauched younger brother of the Chancellor, the latter the power behind the throne of the ineffectual Orico. Dondo takes the naive, impressionable Teidez under his wing, but it is when the ambitious brothers persuade Orico to give the horrified Iselle in marriage to Dondo that Caz is driven to an act of ultimate desperation. Deaths (both natural and unnatural), betrayal and scheming bring Chalion to the brink of civil war.

Through all this, Caz comes to realize that the five gods have chosen him to act for them, though his mission is not made clear. With the second sight he is given, he discovers that a black curse hangs over the royal family of Chalion, one that he seeks to dispel for Iselle's sake. A possible prophecy states that a man must be willing to die, not once, but three times in order to lift the curse, but how is that possible?

Allusions/references to actual history and geography[edit]

Chalion is a looking-glass version of the kingdom of Castile and León, and the novel is loosely based on the lives of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the unifiers of Spain.[2] However, the story of The Curse of Chalion is not simply a retelling of the lives of Isabella and Ferdinand, and Chalion is not simply Castile. The story takes quite a different path from the historical one, and the major characters are distinct personalities, not simply versions of historical people.

Iselle's mother Ista, heroine of the sequel Paladin of Souls, is based on Isabella of Portugal. Iselle's father Roya (King) Ias is based on John II of Castile, whose favorite Alvaro de Luna inspired Bujold's Arvol dy Lutez. Iselle's half-brother Orico represents Henry IV of Castile, who was called "the Impotent", and her full brother Teidez corresponds to Alfonso Prince of Asturias. The geography is likewise based on that of the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century—but mirrored, north for south. Chalion is Castile; Ibra is Aragon and Valencia; South Ibra is Catalonia; Brajar is Portugal; the Roknari princedoms are Al-Andalus; and Darthaca is France.[3] The description of the Chalionese royal castle called "the Zangre" exactly matches the Alcázar of Segovia.


  1. ^ "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  2. ^ "The curse of Chalion: a fantasy novel based on Spanish history". Retrieved 2014-10-11.
  3. ^ as shown on the map:

External links[edit]