I loved this even more than the first book in this world, The Curse of Chalion--and I loved Chalion a lot, which was my first book by Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold was well known before these high fantasy works for a science fiction series, the Vorkosigan Saga. And after her fantasy I turned to those and loved them, but Chalion was first, and she wrote there as if high fantasy was her first language. She had a gift for creating a world that didn't feel off the shelf. Her deities feel like they have a point, and aren't a retread of the Greek Pantheon. It feels a mix of paganism and Christianity in fact. But her greatest gift is for creating characters you care about. And I care a great deal for Ista, a minor character in Chalion who comes into her own in this novel. I love that she's no young sweet thing but a mature woman with miles on her and plenty of damage. She's a complex strong heroine and this book even passes the Bechdel Test (Two or more woman appear in at least one scene where they talk about something other than men.) In other words, there are interesting secondary women characters too. A fantasy book I consider more than comfort food; it's chicken soup for the soul.