Penric and the Shaman
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Cover Artist: Lauren Saint-Onge
Review by Mel Jacob
Subterranean Press Deluxe Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596068155
Date: 28 February 2017
Lois McMasters Bujold fills in some background on Penric of Martensbridge, a sorcerer with the rank of a learned divine, and his demon Desdemona in this short novella from Subterranean Press. He is assigned by the Princess-Archdivine to aid in the capture and recovery of a fugitive shaman. Penric does his best to see justice is served. However, his views differ from the expedition leader, a Senior Locator Oswly.
Chapters shift from the fledging shaman, Inglis, to Penric and to Oswyl. Inglis is accused of killing his best friend Tollen and stealing his spirit. Gradually we learn Inglis indeed carries the spirit of the dead man in a sacrificial knife, which needs frequent refreshment with the shaman's blood to remain viable.
Inglis suffers one disaster after another on his journey to find a shaman to help him. He is injured and then robbed by strangers. Luckily some mountain people find him and try to help. A strange red dog keeps him company.
During the journey, Penric gathers information and advises Oswyl who does not fully trust the sorcerer and his demon Desdemona. Eventually they end in a remote village where the local shaman was recently killed. The village acolyte, Gallin, asks for help to lay to rest the ghost of a shaman killed in a mud slide.
Penric must insure Inglis acts and that Oswyl will cooperate. Neither is a small task. The dead shaman's spirit is waning and time is of the essence.
An accomplished writer, Bujold manages to weave a human tale and insert enough background without bogging down the narrative. All in all, a fast and enjoyable read.