Paladin of Souls
by Louis McMaster Bujold
Paladin of Souls is Bujold's follow-up (not really a sequel) to The Curse of Chalion. The previous book saw Ista - a secondary character in the other book, the protagonist here - freed from a curse, and there's nothing she wants more than to get away from the household she's been politely held in for a couple decades. She manages to pry herself lose with a surprisingly small group of people (she's still politically very important) and goes on a pilgrimage to famed holy sites. She's only doing this to get away, but soon finds that the Bastard (one of the five gods) has been guiding her path. She considers herself the poorest possible choice for a saint, and curses the gods roundly at every step - while the Bastard considers her the best possible choice and enjoys her cursing (as she points out several times, he has a fairly vile sense of humour). It is not an easy journey.
This is my second time reading this book - the first was as a follow-up after first reading The Curse of Chalion. As I've mentioned too many times recently, I think Curse is one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written. As a sequel to that, it was ... a disappointment. I recognized it as a good book, but not the equal of Curse. This, my second reading, was a good opportunity to read it as a work in its own right. It is, like Curse, a rather dark work: Ista's travels are very hard. But as most saints find out, if you have the courage to stay the path of the gods, there's a reward at the end. It's a good book, and was a pleasure to revisit.