Penric and the Shaman - Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric and the Shaman is another novella from LMB set in the world of the Five Gods (which setting makes significantly more sense if you've read either Curse of Chalion or, one of my favourite fantasy books ever, Paladin of Souls), set approximately four years after the events of Penric's Demon

 

In this story, Penric has settled into his new life and is happily ensconced in academia when he's summoned from his studies to help track down a missing man suspected of murder - Penric's skills (or rather those granted to him by his joining with a demon and therefore becoming a sorceror) are needed to identify this man for certain and possibly contain him as well. The missing man, Inglis, is a shaman and therefore has all sorts of powers that it might need a sorceror to deal with once he's found. Naturally, this being a story by LMB, there's significantly more to what's going on than initially meets the eye but it all gets resolved in due course. 

 

As much as I'd like to give this story four stars, I really can't. It's well-written, as befits an author of Bujold's ability, but a couple of things immediately made me enjoy it much less than the previous book in this series. First off, the lack of roles for female characters: the main characters are all male and even Desdemona gets little to do in this, while other female characters are just there to provide for the needs of the men passing through the story. Secondly, the lack of Desdemona as a distinct personality (or set of personalities), which is what made the first book so enjoyable for me - here she really doesn't get to do much other than make the odd comment. 

 

Anyway, I'm fully accepting of the fact that even though I wasn't as impressed with this as I was with Penric's Demon, I'll doubtless buy anything else LMB writes in this universe, but I expected more.