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Lois McMaster Bujold – The Hallowed Hunt

January 28, 2009

11. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold (2005)
Chalion, Book 3 (although essentially stand-alone)

Length: 424 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 24 January 2009
Finished: 28 January 2009

It took me a relatively long time to read this, but the truth was, I read very little of it over the weekend, or for the past two days, simply due to an utter lack of reading time. The bulk of it got read today, because: Snow Day! I’m going to pay threefold later for the work that didn’t get done today, but it was kind of nice to stay in, curl up in the comfy green chair, and read almost an entire book.

How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since Christmas morning of 2007. A whole year gone by without reading all of my Christmas presents? SHAME!
Verdict? Keeper.

Ancient sorcery
will change a life, and make him
face the past… and gods.

Summary: Lord Ingrey kin Wolfcliff, a minor noble retainer and swordarm to one of the powerful Earls of Easthome, has been dispatched on an unpleasant mission. The heir apparent, Prince Boleso, has been killed by a young noblewoman he was trying to rape, and Ingrey must bring the body and the accused Lady Ijada from the distant keep balk to Easthome. But there’s more to the case than simple self-defense: Boleso was engaged in secret, ancient, and heretical sorceries, and Ijada is the unwilling recipient of a by-product of the ritual in which she was meant to be used as a sacrifice. When he learns this, Ingrey begins to wonder about the forces that sent him on this mission, for he too bears a burden of the old magic – one that will link him to Ijada, and throw them both onto a path where they must confront the legacy of a terrible history, in a place where not even the gods can help them.

Review: Bujold’s books are dense, in the best sense of the word. Or maybe “rich” would be a better term – they’re packed full of history, intricate theology, complicated political maneuvering, and a sense of power. Because of this, they are not particularly quick reads; requiring a fair bit of attention and careful reading – no skimming, here. In The Hallowed Hunt in particular every time you fit together one piece of the story, Bujold throws another wrinkle at you, unfolds another detail of the plot that you hadn’t seen coming, and forces you to constantly re-evaluate what’s come before. It’s mature, rich, well-developed, and lavishly-written fantasy, reminiscent of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, that steadfastly refuses to fit into the mold of any fantasy novel that’s come before.

The Hallowed Hunt is set in the same world as The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, albeit in a different country, with different people, and arguably some unspecified number of years earlier. Although the theology makes more sense for having read the earlier books, The Hallowed Hunt would absolutely work as a stand-alone novel. Speaking of the theology, Bujold creates in this series one of the most detailed, internally consistent, and, well, sensical theologies I’ve encountered in fantasy. Each of the books focuses around one of the five gods (Chalion was the Daughter’s, Paladin the Bastard’s, and Hallowed Hunt is the Son’s), making me suspect that the Mother’s and the Father’s books may be forthcoming. While The Hallowed Hunt wasn’t perfect – some of the emotional power was compromised by the convoluted plot, and many of the secondary characters didn’t get the development they deserved – I’m still hoping for more books in this series, and I’m still going to check out Bujold’s other works. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you’re in the mood for rich, mature, original fantasy novels (or have run out of Guy Gavriel Kay books to read), Bujold is a good place to turn. I didn’t like The Hallowed Hunt quite as much as I did the other two Chalion books, but they’re all well-written and quite satisfying.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: I can’t find any. Do you have one? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The prince was dead.


  • p. 172: ““What did they pay you, to thwart the god’s blessing? Who dared this execration?” Ingrey snarled into the groom’s contorted face.” – an act of cursing, daming, or denouncing.
  • p. 211: “Ingrey contemplated this remark for a moment, finding it plangent but maddeningly vague.” – resounding loudly, esp. with a plaintive sound, as a bell.
  • p. 332: “But suddenly a most peculiar memory surfaced, of chewing with wolf-puppy teeth upon a piece of boiled leather armor, a cuirass almost bigger than he was.” – Also called corselet, defensive armor for the torso comprising a breastplate and backplate, originally made of leather.
  • p. 368: “[She] shivered in the cold and damp as Ingrey boosted her aboard her horse, a sturdy little black with a hogged mane and white socks.” – To cut (a horse’s mane) short and bristly.

Also, she used the phrase “begs the question” correctly. That’s a huge pet peeve of mine, and when I saw the words, I was all ready to jump all over her for getting it wrong, until I actually read it again and realized it was right. :)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2009 9:15 pm

    I have her first Sharing Knife book on my TBR, and your Guy Gavriel Kay comparison makes me think I should bump it up. I have indeed run out of (new) GGK to read, and I love me some rich, mature, original fantasy.

  2. Organic Mama permalink
    January 29, 2009 2:26 pm

    Wonderful review!
    I adored Chalion, same with Paladin and while I also very much enjoyed Hallowed Hunt, I agree that it wasn’t the best of the lot. She has proven to be a fabulous producer of rich worlds and interpersonal relationships that I never hesitate to pick anything by her up.

  3. January 30, 2009 10:25 am

    Memory – While I really really like Bujold’s books, they’re not *quite* on par with GGK – but then, few things are! It’s the closest comparison I could find… I’ll be interested to see what you think of The Sharing Knife, since I’ve only read the Chalion books.

    Marny – Wow, thank you!

    Organic Mama – I think Paladin‘s my favorite of the three. What else of Bujold’s have you read? Where would you recommend I go from here?

  4. January 30, 2009 2:34 pm

    I love books that are rich like that. I must look into this series!

  5. Organic Mama permalink
    January 30, 2009 2:39 pm

    I loved Paladin so much because of the (and you know it’s not ironic in all that fantasy to say) humanity of it all and lines like, “My lord, how long have you been dead?” will stay with me for a long time. That said, the beginning of Chalion was among my all time favorites.
    So where to start? ANY of the Vorkosigan books, which are more science fiction than fantasy, is fabulous. The series’ main character, Miles Vorkosigan is brilliant, hyper, canny and although at a physical disadvantage for a variety of plot-specific reasons, is able to achieve much through his mastery of politics, and an understanding of human nature. It’s snarky, funny and generally, a wild ride. At least two of the numerous novels in this series (not all about Miles, but about the universe) won Hugo awards.

    Phew. That should do you.

    Robin McKinley – have you read Sunshine?

  6. January 30, 2009 11:47 pm

    Nymeth – I have to say, I suspect you’d love it. :)

    Organic Mama – I’ve shied away from the Vorkosigan books, even though I’ve heard nothing but praise for them, just because I tend to lean more towards fantasy than sci-fi. I may have to get over that prejudice, though. And I haven’t read Sunshine (although it is in my TBR pile), but I haven’t had a ton of luck with the McKinley books I have read.

  7. trapunto permalink
    February 7, 2009 10:40 pm

    Hey, a Bujold fan! Dense is the word. Her books are so crafted, and have such a good rhythm, My husband and I notice they’re fabulous to read aloud together. We are really enjoying the Sharing Knife books that way, though they are a little different in style and perspective from her other series.

    If you can find some of the early Vorkosigan books on tape or CD, you might enjoy them that way. I also lean more toward fantasy, and I liked them a lot. A team reads them: Michael Hanson and Carol Cowan. Their performance are the best audio book performances I’ve heard–ever.

  8. February 10, 2009 8:41 pm

    I love Bujold’s books, and I enjoyed this one very much. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the Vorkosigan books – they are very much like the other novels – you’ll get so caught up in the characters that you won’t care if they’re on a spaceship or a dragon. :-)

  9. February 11, 2009 11:06 am

    trapunto – Sadly, my library doesn’t have audio versions of the early Vorkosigan books, so I’ll just have to get my fix in printed form.

    darla – You’re evil! I told myself this year I wasn’t going to let myself get any books that weren’t on my wishlist prior to Jan 1… and here you are, pushing me towards a series with eleventy million books. Evil, I say! :)

  10. February 11, 2009 10:30 pm

    Mwahahaha! :-D


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