Book Reviews 2005 (41-42)

A pair of books this time up for review.
The 2004 Hugo award winning Paladin of Souls, by Lois M Bujold
Gunpowder Empire, A Novel of Crosstime Traffic, by Harry Turtledove

Paladin of Souls by Lois M Bujold.
The Second in her novels (after The Curse of Chalion), set in a fantasy world reminscent of Spain during the Reconquista, Paladin of Souls takes the no-longer-mad Ista as a viewpoint character to doings involving the five Gods (especially the Bastard), Demons and the Roknari’s attempts to disturb the peace Chalion has enjoyed under its new rule.
Unlike many fantasy heroines, Ista is an older woman, but no less of a woman for that. There is a romance that slowly works its way through the book, wonderfully drawn characters, sharp action scenes, and thorny problems for the characters to work through.
The novel won the Hugo award in 2004 and deservedly so. As good as Curse of Chalion is (reviewed in this blog in 2003), Paladin of Souls is even stronger. I look forward to reading the Hallowed Hunt as soon as it gets into paperback.
Highly Recommended, but if you haven’t read Curse of Chalion, start there, and get to know Chalion and its characters before diving into Paladin of Souls.

Gunpowder Empire (Crosstime Traffic, Book 1) by Harry Turtledove.
A YA effort from Turtledove in the vein and mode of H. Beam Piper, Heinlein and Andre Norton (who the book are dedicated to), the story revolves around two teenagers trapped on an Earth dominated mostly by a never-fallen Roman Empire (with gunpowder!), as the city they and their parents trade in during the summer comes under siege by an enemy to that Empire.
Its a worthy attempt, although a little clunky and not as polished as his other novels. Some economic aspects of the idea of families trading undercover in alternate worlds doesn’t feel right to me, especially after reading Stross’ The Family Trade.
Like many YA novels of the Heinlein and Norton vein, Turtledove does try to teach as well as entertain, in this book, fittingly, it is aspects of Latin and languages. There is discussion on how Latin evolves in the alternate world, and how it compares to “Classical Latin”.
It’s not bad–but its not praiseworthy either. I don’t really think Turtledove has the knack of the YA sub-genre just yet. There are far better Turtledove novels to read, and far better YA novels, too.
Neutral Recommendation