Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona #2) by Lois McMaster Bujold - Book Review

Write on: Sun, 31 May 2020 by  in Assaph's Reviews Read 2150

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Bujold’s writing, and started with the Penric series of novellas. I loved the first one, so am continuing with the series of novellas.

What to Expect

In this second novella, Penric and the Shaman, the protagonist is more mature than his new-adult start. The story itself alternates between three viewpoints, those of Penric and his companions, showing us how remarkable Penric really is. It is a story that builds up on the magic system, on the world and its gods, it is a story of hunting and being hunted, but above all its a story about redemption.

What I liked

The writing style is charming, the protagonist approachable and likeable, and the world is interesting. Even though it’s a short novella, it captures the sense of the fantasy world and makes you want to read more. The dense multi-layered construction make for fascinating and engaging reading on many levels.

What to be aware of

As mentioned, this is a very quick read with sympathetic characters. Don’t expect sprawling intrigues or world-crushing dangers, but more of a classic fantasy stories like those of LeGuin.

Felix's Review

Felix was intrigued by the concept of sorcerers being possessed of demons as the source of their power, and of a world where it snows so often (at least to his Mediterranean-like sensibilities). He wasn't sure what to make on Penric, a tad on the naive side, but recons he'll grow up to be a very interesting and formidable sorcerer.


Highly recommended for the sheer joy of reading. Get your copy, and dive into this charming tale of a young man venturing out into the world and finding his place. I am certainly looking forward to the other Penric’s novellas, as well as the rest of Bujold’s fantasy writing.



Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy - he whinged horribly when they dragged him to "yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling", yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and - this being Australia - assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he's writing - he seems to do his best writing after midnight.



Twitter: @assaphmehr