RogerBW's Blog

Penric's Fox, Lois McMaster Bujold 17 September 2018

2017 fantasy novella in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion), third by internal chronology in the Penric sub-series (though published after Penric's Mission). A temple-trained sorcerer is murdered in the woods, and her demon is missing; Locator Oswyl looks for the killer, while Penric looks for the demon.

It's a more traditional whodunnit than Penric and the Shaman, from which it immediately follows, with interviews and evidence and questions of motivation and such like. And as such it works rather well; as with any mystery story not set in the real world, the ground rules of the weird stuff have to be established before the reader can work out plausible scenarios for the crime, and Bujold does this cleanly, though at this length there's not room for much in the way of false leads.

There's a large cast of interesting people, who come close to demanding their own sub-sub-series, though as in most of the stories since the first we don't get enough of the interaction between Penric and Desdemona for my taste.

The writing perhaps lacks density; the amount of stuff happening per word is quite low at times, though the book never gets flabby. (The use of "shamaness", particularly when her job is no different from that of a male shaman, strikes me as odd these days.) There's definitely room for more stories between this and Penric's Mission, and not really much progress for Penric himself within this book; the story of how he got to where he is mentally at the start of Mission still hasn't been told.

I enjoyed this one more than Mira's Last Dance, but it's definitely a series entry rather than bringing much that is new.

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