Why I listened to it: I loved The Curse of Chalion (scroll down for review) and other Bujold titles I have listened to. This book is universally recommended by people who have liked those same books - I was also told it was more romantic than Chalion so it was a no brainer really. I picked it up at Audible recently, initially disappointed that Lloyd James wasn't reprising his narration. However, Kate Reading has become my new favourite narrator.
What it's about: (from Goodreads) 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.
What worked for me (and what didn't): This book blew me away. The combination of an exceptional narrator and most excellently plotted story and clever, engaging characters was a total win for me. There is very little I can say on the negative side, other than that when it ended I felt sad because I wanted it to keep going. But I can't really criticise that - the story was told after all. It's just that I wasn't ready to let go.