'Penric and the Shaman' - Book Review

Penric and the Shaman
by Louis McMaster Bujold
2016, novella

Lois McMaster Bujold's second Penric tale, another novella easily read in a half day. I had hoped after the previous book that the next Penric book would be about his school days - normally a divine is sent to school first and given a demon later, but in this case Penric had nothing to do with the temple(s) and suddenly had a demon. I thought that would be a good story. But Bujold disagreed, and jumped us forward seven or nine years to send Penric out to find a renegade shaman.

A common complaint I've made in my reviews of books and movies in the past several years has been "if I can guess where you're going with this, you're doing it wrong." This is never an issue with Bujold. I've never managed to predict where she's going with her plots, and I'm very happy about it. Her writing varies between "good" (this book) and superb (Curse of Chalion, one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels). And yet, despite an unexpected plot and good writing, I wasn't particularly inspired by this book. Sequelitis is a big part of the problem: we already know that Penric has several more books ahead of him, all with the series title "Penric and Desdemona," meaning that he's not about to change career (and especially not die), so the threat to him ... well, there is none. And that removes a great deal of tension from the book.