In 2004, Paladin of Souls was nominated for "Minnesota Book Awards" in the Popular Fiction category and the Mythopoeic Awards for Adult Literature; it won "Best Romantic Novel outside the Romance Genre" from Romance Readers Anonymous (RRA-L), a Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2003, the Romantic Times 2003 Reviewers' Choice Award for best fantasy novel, and took Top place in the Locus Magazine poll in the category of best fantasy novel. In 2005, Paladin of Souls won the Nebula Award for Best Novel 2004.
Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets – for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road – escape – beckons... A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of all Chalion.
Yet something else is free, too – something beyond deadly. To the north lies the vital border fortress of Porifors. Memories linger there as well, of wars, and invasions and the mighty Golden General of Jokona. And someone, something, watches from across that border – humans, demons, gods.
Ista thinks her little party of pilgrims wanders at will. But whose? When Ista's retinue is unexpectedly set upon not long into its travels, a mysterious ally appears – a warrior nobleman who fights like a berserker. The temporary safety of her enigmatic champion's castle cannot ease Ista's mounting dread, however, when she finds his dark secrets are entangled with hers in a net of the gods' own weaving.
In her dreams the threads are already drawing her to unforeseen chances, fateful meetings, fearsome choices. What the inscrutable gods commanded of her in the past brought her land to the brink of devastation. Now, once again, they have chosen Ista as their instrument. And again, for good or for ill, she must comply.
Ista dy Chalion, formerly known as Mad Ista, has spent the three years since the lifting of the Curse of Chalion taking care of her mother in Valenda. Tired of her constricted life there, she hits upon the idea of running away by means of a holy pilgrimage, taken in humility (thus allowing her to leave her name and attendants behind her). She sets out with Learned Chivar dy Cabon - a divine of the Bastard, Annaliss - a courier who likes to ride fast horses, Foix and Ferda dy Gura - former companions of Cazaril, and a small group of temple soldiers.
Ista has no desire to pray to the Gods or to seek any favor of them; she'd had enough of that when she was much younger. At that time, she'd been a saint of the Mother, but her quest to save her family and country from the Curse of Chalion failed, leaving her mad with grief and pain. Dy Cabon, however, has been having dreams about her - it seems the gods are interested in her whether she wants it or not. Further, she has dreams of her own about a man trapped and unconscious in a room. She travels mostly north, somewhat at random, until an accident transforms her companion Foix into a sorcerer; he has a young, inexperienced demon within him. Unfortunately, almost immediately after that, they are captured by a group of Roknari soldiers who take them north towards Jokona as fast as they can. Unfortuately for the Jokonans, Arhys dy Lutez of the fortress of Porifors and his own soldiers intercept them and free Ista and her companions.
Ista finds herself well-treated by the people of Porifors, but there are signs of deep troubles. Arhys has a deep wound on his chest that appears and disappears. His wife behaves very strangely. His brother Illvin is unconscious and taken care of in a room. When Ista manages a visit to him, he's the same person as in her dreams.
When her ability to see and act upon the spirit world is returned to her, she begins to act: first she awakens Illvin, then summons Arhys. The brothers converse and come to understand their situation properly: Arhys was killed with a knife accidentally wielded by Illvin, who had been intending to rescue him from the sorceress Umerue. Umerue was killed at the same time, and her demon fled to Cattilara, who arrived soon after and had demanded of the demon that it/she save Arhys. The demon could only do so by stealing energy from Illvin.
Ista decided not to act immediately, as she could see no way to arrive at a good result - Arhys's ghost was sundered and could not go to the gods, and its connection to his body was getting tenuous.
Meanwhile, the outside world of demons and soldiers from Roknar arrived at their fortress.
Major characters Edit
- Ista dy Chalion
- Annaliss (Liss)
- Foix dy Gura
- Ferda dy Gura
- Arhys dy Lutez
- Cattilara dy Lutez
- Illvin dy Arbanos
- Learned dy Cabon