No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

2017/73: Penric and the Shaman -- Lois McMaster Bujold

I take my first duty to be to souls, not laws. And to learn as well as teach, or what else do the gods put us in this world for? [loc. 856]
Four years have passed since Penric acquired, or began to host, the chaos demon he calls Desdemona. Now a fully-fledged Divine of the Bastard's Order, he is living in the palace of the Princess-Archdivine Llewen, sorcerously crafting printing plates, and studying greedily.

This pleasant existence is interrupted by the arrival of Senior Locator Oswyl, who is in pursuit of a murderer and would like to avail himself of Penric's sorcerous skills. The victim had been friends with a shaman, who has disappeared: and so has the soul of the murdered man. In short, the shaman may have taken not only the man's life, but his ghost -- and his promised afterlife.

It's not quite that simple, of course. This novella opens with a chapter from the point of view of the shaman Inglis, injured in the snow and rescued by villagers who have secrets of their own. Inglis carries a heavy burden of guilt and grief.

I do like these novellas: they're gentle, thoughtful, often very funny, and they deal with some interesting features of Bujold's quintarian theology. Penric is rather less callow than in Penric's Demon, and his relationship with Desdemona has clearly evolved over the intervening years. Oswyl, an honourable and conscientious investigator, has burdens of his own, and at first finds Penric hard work. And Inglis, with his ambition, his damaged powers and his loneliness, is an intriguing character. Another enjoyable read.

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