This is the third published, but earliest chronological novel in the World of the Five Gods/Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold. In it, a crowned prince has just been found dead, bludgeoned by his own war hammer, and the Lady Ijada is the only likely culprit. She claims self-defense, but her seemingly willingness to go to the prince is being used against her. We meet her now en route, with the prince’s body, with noble/captain Ingrey who has been charged with bringing both for an inquest. Ingrey, we find out earlier, is invested with the spirit of a wolf through shamanic magic. We also find out early that the dead prince invested Ijada with her own animal spirit before he died. You can imagine how these two invested characters will begin to feel before long.
This was one of those books that took me years to read. For one, I only had access to a mass market edition and I find those too much to deal with a lot of the time. Two, I started the first chapter or so more than once, and the Lois McMaster Bujold fantasy novels (outside of the Penric ones) start out so dry to me. But then I found out that Audible Escape was inexplicably calling this novel a romance and offered it for free.
All of this to say that I do really like this novel. It’s still dry and a little dreary at times, but still one that is really rewarding. It’s also a novel that makes me better understand the magic system in two of the Penric novels Penric and the Shaman and Penric’s Fox, and I would have benefited from this earlier reading there.