We find Penric and his shamanic friend Inglis peacefully, if not productively, fishing on a calm riverside day. And then we are precipitated into a murder scene, one moreover complicated by a missing demon.
Despite the tragedy of the loss of an upstanding member of Penric’s own sorcerous calling, the fate of her demon is of more immediate concern.
Penric and his own multi-feminine demoness, Desdemona, are forced into examination of the possible limits of demonic evolution, Penric and Inglis into consideration of the possible cap on the growth/accretion of shamanic great beasts.
We have a classic reasoning/investigating novella, with examination of possibilities, personal stresses during searchings, and stark contemplation of uncaring murder motivated by unreasoning revenge.
As always, Lois McMaster Bujold develops her characters engagingly, her scenarios with imagination, and her plots with malicious forethought. Again, engaging and tempting, her world of the Five Gods is an intriguing place to be, its strictures and alternate realities seizing on the imagination and on a reader’s thinking.
Penric is led to examination of everything from the interactions of demons to the possibilities of shamanic delving. At the end, supplicating his own protector and employer, the great Lady Llewyn, he instigates the first stages of a year of study of those shamanic realms.
The next of the Penric series is artfully set to begin!!
Lois McMaster Bujold