Friday, 7 July 2017

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold is the second novella in the Penric and Desdemona series, set in the World of the Five Gods, which is also home to a series of novels which I haven't read. I have read the earlier Penric novella, however, Penric's Demon. The main reason I picked up this series at all is because Penric and the Shaman is shortlisted for a Hugo Award this year.

In this novella set in The World of the Five Gods and four years after the events in “Penric’s Demon”, Penric is a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a “Locator" of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric’s roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.

While I enjoyed Penric's Demon, I didn't love it and wasn't sure that I'd bother reading more Penric books after Penric and the Shaman. However, I enjoyed Penric and the Shaman rather more than the introductory novella and found myself laughing out loud more often. I'm not sure to what extent that's due to my state of mind when reading (I was more tired and on night shift up a mountain when I read Penric's Demon) or the intrinsic quality of the writing itself. Probably a bit of both.

Penric and the Shaman tells the story of Penric's encounter with a shaman (loosely speaking) from three points of view: Penric's, the shaman's and the Locator sent to capture the (sort of rogue) shaman. I wasn't sure how much I'd like the split points of view, since I came in attached to Penric and Desdemona, but it worked very well. I should not have doubted Bujold's ability to make me care about other characters. The introduction of the concept of shamans also added to the worldbuilding that we were first introduced to in Penric's Demon (speaking as someone who hasn't read any of the novels), making it a deeper world.

I highly recommend Penric and the Shaman to fans of Penric's Demon and fantasy in general. I think the worldbuilding and jokes work better having read the prequel, but it's not absolutely necessary, especially since four years have passed in the interim. I expect I will read the sequels at some point (when I am less drowning in other books).

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2016, self-published
Series: Penric and Desdemona, book 2 of 4 so far (I think)
Format read: ePub
Source: Hugo Voter Packet

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