'The Hallowed Hunt' - Book Review

The Hallowed Hunt
by Louis McMaster Bujold

The Hallowed Hunt is the third book Bujold set in the world of Chalion, after The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, but this one is earliest in the chronology. She later wrote Penric's Demon, which I read recently - and which has sent me back to Chalion. Our main character is Ingrey Wolfcliff, a disgraced lord of a country called "the Weald," a couple hundred years before the events of The Curse of Chalion. Ingrey's profession is still thoroughly recognizable: he is a courier and enforcer. That which brought disgrace upon him also makes him uniquely qualified as a man-at-arms: he has the soul of a wolf bound to him. Such binding of souls is forbidden, but it was done to him (rather than by him) and cannot be removed, so he has a dispensation.

As the book opens, he's sent to retrieve the body of a prince, and take custody of the court lady who killed the prince (after he tried to rape her). They find they have a great deal in common during their trip back to the capital.

It's a long book. You'll need to buy into Bujold's idea of Chalion's theology and mysticism: if you can do that, it's a seriously intriguing story of politics, adventure, and applied theology. The most obvious thing about Chalion's religion is that it has five gods. The most important thing, I think, is that the gods cannot touch the physical realm. Their ability to act is limited to acting through those who are willing to act for them ... and the messages rarely come through clearly (although it's never in question that the gods DO exist).

I was told many years ago that Hunt wasn't as good as Curse and Paladin, which is why I haven't read it until now. But I thought it was excellent. Nothing could match my regard for Curse, but I'm now going to re-read Paladin to see whether Hunt is better or worse. From my willingness to re-read Paladin, you can assume I like it a lot too.