One good thing about the cross-over between Nebula and Hugo finalists is that it cuts down on the amount of reading I have to do to review all the candidates. I’ve already finished all the other Hugo contenders in the novella category, so this will close it out. The listed publisher for Bujold’s novel is Spectrum Literary Agency. (Penric’s Demon says this same thing. I gather she self-published.)

Four years after the events of Penric’s Demon, Penric has been hastily educated and is living in the palace of the Princess-Archdivine. He has come to terms with his demon Desdemona and is respectably installed as a divine of the Bastard’s Order. However, his scholarly work is interrupted by the arrival of a Locator of the Father’s Order who is trying to capture a shaman charged with murder. Because magic is involved, the Archdivine assigns Penric to accompany the Locator. Once they get close to their quarry in the mountains, they find all is not as it seemed, and Penric needs all of his skills and talent to deal with the situation.

This novella has many of the same good points that Penric’s prior adventure had. It’s apparently young adult and is a smooth, easy read, well-plotted, with good characterization, good imagery, etc. etc. etc. Bujold is a professional, after all. The story is an entertaining tale, but this one didn’t grip me quite the way Penric’s Demon did. It reads more like a straightforward supernatural mystery, and lacks the depth that Penric’s symbolic marriage to Desdemona gave the first installment. It doesn’t develop quite the same drama, either.

Three and a half stars.