by Lois McMaster Bujold
Wow, I hadn't realized just how much I missed Bujold.
If you're familiar with Lois McMaster Bujold, you probably know her through her iconic Vorkosigan Saga and may not even be aware of her high fantasy series. While the style, worldbuilding, and characters are startlingly different from the Vorkosigan Saga, the World of the Five Gods series is well worth the read. Featuring a different protagonist in each book, it takes place in a vaguely medieval high-fantasy world ruled by the aforementioned Five Gods. Like the loas of Santeria, these gods can choose "saints" that they inhabit and ride. But the world is also inhabited by the servants of the Fifth God, the Bastard. These incorporeal demons also choose humans to ride, and a demon-ridden human can become either a sorcerer or a psychotic.
A man became a sorcerer upon acquiring a demon much as a man became a rider upon acquiring a horse, with the implication that the inept horseman was riding for a fall.
This novella centers around the eponymous Penric, a son of an impoverished country lord of a land "more noted for producing cheese than history". At the novella's outset, Penric stumbles into the wrong place at exactly the wrong time and ends up discovering far more about the incorporeal world of the spirit than he had planned. The story itself is thoroughly enjoyable, a gentle exploration of a thoroughly satisfying world infused with the trademark Bujold wit. If you're a fan of the Five Gods books, this little novella is a joy to read. I'm not sure how well it would work if you're not familiar with the world of the five gods, but that's okay, because if you're fond of unique high fantasy, Curse of Chalion deserves a place on your to-read list anyway.
~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Subterranean Press, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novella as a whole.~~