I called in sick today, and in between passing out in bed, I managed to finish Lois McMaster Bujold's novella, Penric's Demon, set in the World of the Five Gods. I sadly haven't re-read the three novels that precede this particular tale since I started this blog, but that may change before too terribly long, particularly if I can procure a copy of the follow up to this volume, Penric and the Shaman.
A bit of summation of the setting, since a new reader to the world could theoretically pick up on some of it, but it would miss the rich tapestry of the world. Basically, Most of the nations in this setting recognize Five Gods, The Daughter of Spring, The Mother of Summer, The Son of Autumn, The Father of Winter, and the Bastard, God of all things out of season. In the archipelago of Roknari, they consider the Bastard a demon and not a God, leading to what most characters think of as the Quadrene Heresy. It also means things The Bastard rules are outlawed behaviors in the archipelago.
The previous three volumues in the series focused on the ways the gods work in the setting, as well as introducing Shamanism in cold Darcatha. Shamanism in this world merges the soul of a human with that of an animal, and must be undone for one of the 5 to claim the soul.
Anyway, this one is set in what seems to be the small kingdom of the Weald and literally starts about the place most books would place chapter 5 or 6. Poor Lord Penric (literally poor as his Barony of Jurold was left mostly bankrupt by Penric's father) is on the way to his arranged marriage with a nobleman's daughter when he stops to assist Learned Ruchia, a sorcerer of the Bastard who had the misfortune to have a heart attack in front of Penric's horse. (Temple sorcerers are those who are possessed by a demon, but have equal or greater footing in the arrangement than the demon.)
As such, as Ruchia dies, the demon she's hosting jumps into Penric, who's not been properly prepared for such a thing. Nor, when the demon starts talking, is he prepared for a demon whose personalities are all female. (Demons take on the traits of the people they've possessed. As such, this one has Ruchia and several predecessors including a courtesan, a lioness and a doe incorporated into the whole.) This leads to some rather amusing situations, as Penric is an adolescent, and also doesn't quite understand a certain bathhouse when he makes it to Martensbridge, where Learned Ruchia was originally traveling.
As such, we watch as he slowly becomes an accidental sorcerer, naming the demon Desdemona, as well as acknowledging her 12 other parts. We read, intrigued, as he gets pulled into small amounts of spy craft and trapped by one who would be a friend.
And in the end, we find him pleading with The Bastard for the life of Desdemona.
I love this setting immensely, and would highly recommend it (starting with The Curse of Chalion) to anyone who enjoys intelligent, well written fantasy that understands pacing.