Bujold, Lois McMaster: (203) The Hallowed Hunt

Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Hallowed Hunt is set in the same universe as The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, but in a different country and some time earlier (it was inspired in part by an episode in a book called Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany). Like the others, it revolves, first, around theology, and second, around the continuing effects of the past.

Ingrey kin Wolfcliff is a trusted aide to the King’s sealmaster, sent to deal with the killing of a younger Prince during a heretical rite by the rite’s victim—one of the rite’s victims. Ingrey finds far more complications than he’d expected in dealing with Ijada dy Castos, the Prince’s killer; for one, he bears in his body the spirit of a wolf (obtained unwillingly in his youth), and it appears that his wolf wants to kill Ijada.

Things get considerably get more complicated than this, of course; theologically, at least, this may be the most complex of the three novels. Unfortunately, its main characters are not as well suited to pulling the reader through these complexities as those of prior books. Not only are they individually less interesting to me, they have some serious competition. In Chalion, events were ultimately driven by the titular curse; in Paladin, by a character largely offstage. Here, however, events are driven by someone much more present in the narrative, which noticably affects the gravity of the story—in the science-metaphor sense of heavy objects on a sheet of rubber. Additionally, a couple of minor characters steal all the scenes they are in quite shamelessly.

The climax of the book is fine and moving, but the rest of the book is not one of Bujold’s more engaging efforts.

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  1. Again, I agree with pretty much everything you say. The opening scenes lacked an effective ‘hook’, and the characters of Ingrey and Ijada never quite lived up to their potential. I especially agree about the scene-stealing—the bit players were FAR more compelling than the primaries, to the extent of warping reader expectations about who would turn out to be important.

    Also, it seemed to me that there was a fundamental flaw in the plotting. I don’t want to spoil the book, but I thought that the center-of-mass character’s actions were not best-chosen to accomplish his goals, and that he’d probably have pulled it off if he had stayed in character and kept to manipulation and misinformation until the last minute.

    I enjoyed the book, but I rate it well below the other two overall.

  2. David: the complexity of Hallowed Hunt means that I’m not at all sure about the relative effectiveness of center-of-mass character’s options; also, you know, stark raving mad and all. Sadly, I’m not particularly motivated to go back and figure it out.

  3. An additional flaw stemming from the lovingly-painted secondary characters is that while we’re supposed to sympathize with Ingrey’s dilemma of not knowing who to trust, it’s immediately apparent that Bujold likes these particular characters and that they will be good guys. So there’s not a lot of tension in the middle section of the book where Ingrey is supposed to be navigating difficult political waters.

    I thought that the c-o-m character was interesting, but his end goal seemed pretty banal, and it became undesirable only by author’s fiat so there would be a conflict.

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