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The Hallowed Hunt    by Lois McMaster Bujold order for
Hallowed Hunt
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Hallowed Hunt is set in the same dark world as Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls - a world of powerful magic, dire curses, and five gods with the habit of meddling, often carelessly, in the affairs of men and women. Though co-existing in this world and with some overlap in characters, each story stands on its own.

This one opens strongly, with Prince Boleso dead at his hunting seat, at a time when his father, the hallow king, is near his own end. Lord Ingrey, an officer of the royal sealmaster, has been sent to investigate. The killer? Young Lady Ijada, a retainer of Boleso's visiting sister, Fara, used the dissolute prince's own war hammer on him. Signs of sorcery linger in the room, along with a strangled leopardess. When he first meets Ijada, Ingrey senses the presence of a spirit animal in her - the leopardess intended by Boleso for himself instead transferred to her. Ingrey knows this since he himself carries a wolf spirit, held under strict control since his childhood. He interviews Ijada, and then escorts her and the prince's body back to the capital at Easthome.

As they travel, a mutual attraction deepens between Ingrey and Ijada. He also finds himself making repeated attempts on her life - someone has laid a geas on him. Ingrey pleas with Ijada to flee, but she refuses. En route they meet a friend of Ijada's, the very pregnant Learned Hallana. They also encounter Ingrey's cousin, Wencel, Lord Horseriver, husband to Princess Fara. Surprisingly, he turns out to carry a spirit animal as well. When they reach Easthome, Ijada is held in a house provided by Lord Horseriver, and the plot steadily thickens to include the ultimate fate of trapped souls whose bodies died in ancient battles. On a lighter note, there's a barbarian prince with a huge ice bear, and a minor saint, both with important roles to play.

Ingrey discovers that he is heir to a horrific legacy, one that he fights desperately to avoid. But he also finds out that he holds the key to freeing souls held in stasis for centuries. As usual, Bujold gives us a compelling fantasy, rich in characterization and in world cultures, and filled with both dark and heroic deeds, sorcery and romance.

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