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The Hallowed Hunt, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published in 2005 by HarperCollins Publishers, is the third novel published in the World of the Five Gods Series of fantasy tales.

Publisher's summary[]

Prince Boleso is dead – slain by a noblewoman he had intended to defile.

Lord Ingrey kin Wolfcliff has been dispatched to the remote castle of the late, exiled, half-mad royal to transport the body to its burial place and the accused killer, the Lady Ijada, to judgment. Ingrey's mission is an ugly and delicate one, for the imminent death of the old Hallow King has placed the crown in play, and the murder of his youngest son threatens to further roil already treacherous political waters. But ther is more here than a prince's degenerate lusts and the fatal retribution it engendered. Boleso's dark act, though unfinished, inadvertently bestowed an unwanted mystical "gift" upon proud, brave Ijada that must ultimately mean her doom – a curse similar to one with which Ingrey himself has been burdened since boyhood.

A forbidden spirit now inhabits the soul of Ijada, giving her senses she never wished for and an obligation no one sane would desire. At once psychically linked to the remarkable lady and repelled by what she carries within, Ingrey fears the havoc his own inner beast could wreak while on their journey, as he fights a powerful growing attraction ... and an equally powerful compulsion to kill.

The road they travel together is beset with dangers – and though duty-bound to deliver Ijada to an almost certain execution, Ingrey soon realizes that she is the only one he dares trust. For a malevolent enemy with designs on a troubled kingdom holds Ingrey in his sway – and without Ijada's aid and love, the haunted lord will never be able to break free and realize the great and terrible destiny bestowed upon him by the gods, the damned, and the dead.

Plot summary[]

Prince Boleso kin Stagthorn had died; Ingrey kin Wolfcliff arrived on the scene to investigate. As it turned out, there was no mystery - the prince had been bludgeoned with a war-axe wielded by a woman he'd been attempting to defile, Ijada dy Castos. Boleso failed in that act, but he succeeded in another: she had received the spirit of a leopard, much like Ingrey had the spirit of a wolf in himself.

Ingrey took her and Boleso's body on a journey to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. Along the way, he discovered he was being compelled by some kind of geas to try to kill Ijada. He and Ijada also met up with a friend of Ijada's, a very pregnant sorceress addressed as Learned Hallana, who assisted him in removing the geas - but with the side-effect of releasing his wolf from the bindings that had kept it docile for the last decade. They then were met by Ijada's employer, Earl-Ordainer Wencel kin Horseriver. As it happened, he too bore a spirit animal - a horse, and he knew far more about the phenomenon than anybody else around. The following day Ijada related to Ingrey a dream she'd had in her dower lands, called the Wounded Woods: In it, spirits from the Bloodfield massacre came to her and declared her their banner carrier.

They arrived at Easthome, and Ijada, still under arrest for Boleso's death, was placed in a home owned by Wencel, with Ingrey as her guard. Over the next week, Wencel gradually doled out hints as to the workings of banner-carriers and shamans and the deeds of long ago in the battle against the then-invader Great Audar, of Darthaca.

Meanwhile, Ingrey set out to deliver a letter from Hallana to Learned Lewko, who turned out to be a minor Saint of the Bastard. The visit became complicated by his encountering of a funeral gone awry - the man who'd died had been taken up by the Bastard, but the grooms had been bribed to make it appear that the Father of Winter had taken his soul. The animal in charge of signifying the Bastard was a polar bear that did not appreciate being prevented from doing his duty. Ingrey stepped into the mess, likely saving the groom's life; he also discovered the plot and accused the groom. As part of cleaning up the scene, Learned Lewko charged Ingrey with the task of returning the polar bear, Fafa, to its prior owner - a visiting pirate-poet prince, Jokol Skullsplitter.

As a result, he did not meet with his boss, Lord Hetwar, until the following morning. Prince Biast kin Stagthorne, the expected-to-be heir to the Hallowed Throne, was there as well. Ingrey's next experience of a funeral was for Prince Boleso; he ended up in a trance talking to the Son of Autumn, who wished to claim Boleso's soul but was prevented by the animal spirits he'd taken into himself. Ingrey removed the spirits as directed by the Son, and Boleso went to his reward.

Then Lord Wencel kin Horseriver persuaded Lord Hetwar to allow Ingrey to go into his service. The next day, the Hallowed King died and his spiritual mantle of kingship passed to Wencel, who promptly took off with his wife, Princess Fara, and Ingrey, hurrying north to the Wounded Woods. Meanwhile Ijada and five people chosen by the Gods as their representatives (Lewko for the Bastard, Hallana for the Mother, Oswin for the Father, Jokol for the Daughter, and Biast for the Son) chased behind as fast as they could.

Upon arrival in the woods, the spirits of Bloodfield came to them, seeking to be united with their gods. As it turned out, Wencel's plan for breaking the spell/curse upon them did not involve that result - he wanted to finally die for real and to leave them all sundered from the gods.

The first step after forcing Fara to kill him was to compel Ingrey to call his horse spirit from him - to fail to do so was to receive Wencel's spirit within himself, continuing the curse indefinitely and ensuring his own madness. Ingrey accomplished the result but ended up sundered from his own body, which began gradually to die.

At this point, Ijada arrived and turned matters around by causing Ingrey to be declared the new Hallowed King for the spirits in place of Wencel. Ingrey rejoined his body, arose, and called the five representatives of the gods into the clearing (they'd not been able to enter because the curse excluded the gods). He then set out to spend the rest of the night calling out animal spirits from the 3000 ghosts and sending each one to their representative, to be taken to their rewards. Wencel refused and was sundered.

Ingrey and Ijada married, and Biast became the next Hallowed King.

Major characters[]

Supporting characters[]

Minor characters[]

The gods[]

Behind the scenes[]

A major source for the tale comes from Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany by H. C. Erik Midelfort