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Paladin of Souls, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2003, is the second book published in the World of the Five Gods series of fantasy novels.

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Ista's Pilgrimage

In 2004, Paladin of Souls was nominated for "Minnesota Book Awards" in the Popular Fiction category and the Mythopoeic Awards for Adult Literature; it won "Best Romantic Novel outside the Romance Genre" from Romance Readers Anonymous (RRA-L), a Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2003, the Romantic Times 2003 Reviewers' Choice Award for best fantasy novel, and took Top place in the Locus Magazine poll in the category of best fantasy novel. In 2005, Paladin of Souls won the Nebula Award for Best Novel 2004.

Publisher's summary[]

Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets – for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road – escape – beckons... A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of all Chalion.

Yet something else is free, too – something beyond deadly. To the north lies the vital border fortress of Porifors. Memories linger there as well, of wars, and invasions and the mighty Golden General of Jokona. And someone, something, watches from across that border – humans, demons, gods.

Ista thinks her little party of pilgrims wanders at will. But whose? When Ista's retinue is unexpectedly set upon not long into its travels, a mysterious ally appears – a warrior nobleman who fights like a berserker. The temporary safety of her enigmatic champion's castle cannot ease Ista's mounting dread, however, when she finds his dark secrets are entangled with hers in a net of the gods' own weaving.

In her dreams the threads are already drawing her to unforeseen chances, fateful meetings, fearsome choices. What the inscrutable gods commanded of her in the past brought her land to the brink of devastation. Now, once again, they have chosen Ista as their instrument. And again, for good or for ill, she must comply.

Plot summary[]

Ista dy Chalion, formerly known as Mad Ista, spent the three years since the lifting of the Curse of Chalion taking care of her mother in Valenda. Tired of her constricted life there, she hit upon the idea of running away by means of a holy pilgrimage, taken in humility (thus allowing her to leave her name and attendants behind her). She set out with Learned Chivar dy Cabon - a divine of the Bastard, Annaliss - a courier who liked to ride fast horses, Foix and Ferda dy Gura - former companions of Cazaril, and a small group of temple soldiers.

Ista had no desire to pray to the Gods or to seek any favor of them; she'd had enough of that when she was much younger. At that time, she'd been a saint of the Mother, but her quest to save her family and country from the Curse of Chalion failed, leaving her mad with grief and pain. Dy Cabon, however, had been having dreams about her - it seemed the gods were interested in her whether she wanted it or not. Further, she had dreams of her own about a man trapped and unconscious in a room. She traveled mostly north, somewhat at random, until an accident transformed her companion Foix into a sorcerer; he found himself with a young, inexperienced demon. Unfortunately, almost immediately after that, they were captured by a group of Roknari soldiers who took them north towards Jokona as fast as they could. Unfortuately for the Jokonans, Arhys dy Lutez of the fortress of Porifors and his own soldiers intercepted them and freed Ista and her companions.

Ista found herself well-treated by the people of Porifors, but there were signs of deep troubles. Arhys had a deep wound on his chest that appeared and disappeared. His wife behaved very strangely. His brother Illvin was unconscious and taken care of in a room. When Ista managed a visit to him, he turned out to be the same person as in her dreams.

Her ability to see and act upon the spirit world was returned to her, and she began to act: first she awakened Illvin, then summoned Arhys. The brothers conversed and came to understand their situation properly: Arhys had been killed with a knife accidentally wielded by Illvin, who had been intending to rescue him from the sorceress Umerue. Umerue was killed at the same time, and her demon fled to Cattilara, who had arrived on the scene soon after and demanded of the demon that it/she save Arhys. The demon could only do so by stealing energy from Illvin.

Ista decided not to act immediately, as she could see no way to arrive at a good result - Arhys's ghost was sundered and could not go to the gods, and its connection to his body was getting tenuous.

Meanwhile, the outside world of demons and soldiers from Roknar arrived at their fortress. The sorcerers' demons made short work of its fortifications, leading within a day to a desperate situation for its people. Arhys decided to try for a sortie - he would ride out with a few guards and kill as many of the sorcerers as possible, making use Foix's ability to locate them and his own unkillability.

The sortie resulted in seven sorcerers (of twelve) killed, but everyone in the party captured or killed. Foix survived, but was enslaved to Joen and her own demon. However, in the process of ensuring Arhys's soul could find the Father of Winter, Ista allowed her own soul to serve as the portal through which Arhys could find his God; thus her own soul was expanded enough for her to become a Saint able to take demons out of the world. She began the task by taking Cattilara's demon.

To aid her plan to reach Joen, Illvin recommended that they surrender the fortress and be taken prisoner. The ploy worked; she and Illvin were taken directly to Joen and her remaining sorcerers, along with Foix. Ista made quick work of swallowing the collection of demons, sparing and freeing Foix's. Illvin and Foix then aided her in escaping the Roknari camp, and the invasion from Roknar came to an abrupt halt.

She went on to serve as a new Saint of the Bastard with the charge of taking undesired demons out of the world, with the aid of Illvin and Foix and Annaliss.

Major characters[]

Supporting characters[]

Minor characters[]

The gods[]

Behind the scenes[]

Some roots behind this tale come from the stories of queen Juana La Loca hauling around the encoffined corpse of her husband for rather too long, and the end of the tale of El Cid, where the dead Cid was tied to his horse to lead a last charge.