Bothari43 has been singing the praises of Lois McMaster Bujold for some time and she, and a couple of other people, have given me various Bujold books, which I have not read. I don’t know why. I believe Bothari43 when she tells me I will like the books, but some part of me, I don’t know, hates joy? I become overwhelmed with anxiety that I will fail people by not loving the books as much as they do? Anyway, I finally bit the bullet, sort of, and bought Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman, and Penric’s Fox. They are delightful, though I didn’t really fall fully in love until most of the way through Penric and the Shaman.
Penric’s Demon is my first foray into Lois McMaster Bujold’s writing. Penric is the younger brother of a minor rural lord. He is starting off a bit later than his mother would like to be betrothed to a merchant’s daughter, exchanging coin for connection to a title. Penric isn’t resentful of his impending marriage, just not excited enough to move faster. On the way, he comes across a company of people surrounding an older woman who seems to be in poor health. He stops and asks if he can help and finds himself holding the woman’s hand as she dies, and then he sees a flash and faints. When Penric comes to, he finds himself inhabited by a chaos demon and presenting a quandary for the Temple.
For the rest of the novella, Penric is getting to know his demon, and his demon him. Penric realizes that his demon has inhabited 10 human women, a lioness, and a mare. The demon has its own personality along with the imprints of those she inhabited before. Penric suggests naming the demon to differentiate between the demon as a whole and the parts of her that reflect other hosts. He chooses Desdemona, which pleases her greatly.
I loved the time that we spend in Penric’s head with Desdemona.
Penric and the Shaman is set four years later. Penric is fully invested as a Learned divine and is serving in the house of the Princess-Archdivine. Penric and Desdemona are asked to help Locator Oswyl find a missing shaman, who may or may not have murdered his best friend. In this outing, we spend much less time inside Penric’s head with Desdemona, and much more time observing them through Oswyl and Inglis, the shaman. Through the eyes of other characters, we see how much more confident and comfortable Penric is as a chaos demon’s host.
Penric and the Shaman was often funny, with a lot of the humor coming from other’s perspectives on Penric. Unfortunately, I have to spoil for you that Inglis is not a murderer, because he is in the next book I’m reviewing.
In Penric’s Fox, Penric is having a little bit of a holiday, having traveled to Easthome with the Archdivine. While spending a day fishing with Shaman Inglis, they are summoned by Locater Oswyl to help with a murder investigation. The murder victim is a woman, who was recently invested with a demon. There is the straightforward mystery of who killed the woman, and a much less straightforward mystery about what happened to her demon.
In all of these books, I love that Penric is interested in the welfare of every one involved in the story. His concern makes his decisions more complex, but he looks for answers that are just for as many as possible. Hosting a chaos demon probably gives him more than the average person’s experience with uncertainty. His willingness to dwell in uncertainty and wait until he understands the situation leads him to solutions that harm fewer people. So, yes, this is my jam.