Superb single volume fantasy from an author I have never read before. The main protagonist Cazaril is a minor lord who has been reduced to beggardom after being callously betrayed by those greater nobles in whose service he has risked his life.
Instead of the magic usually found in fantasy novels Bujold has employed a very well crafted system of religion. The world of Chalion knows five gods: Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, one for each season and the Bastard god of all things out of season. The practise of religion and its impact on folks every day lives is very well described and entirely believable in the medieval fantasy setting of the novel. The twist is that the gods are very real and respond to the characters prayers although the ways and means of the gods interacting with the living world are complex and difficult to understand. Cazaril himself becomes a tool of those gods as they seek to rescue the kingdom of Chalion from a curse that has befallen its royal family.
Very enjoyable read