This novella is laugh-out-loud funny, and you don't have to have read the previous Penric stories to enjoy it.
The Orphans of Raspay is set in the world of the Five Gods, which Bujold intro-duced with The Curse of Chalion, and has continued to explore through eleven novels and novellas. Paladin of Souls won numerous awards, including Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards for best novel of 2003. (I think The Curse of Chalion deserved these honors also, but it took readers and voters two years to catch-on and catch-up.)
Penric is a young man who inadvertently became the possessor of a demon, a powerful chaos entity, when he tried to save the life of a dying woman. Demons jump from one body to another, and usually an animal or person is possessed by the demon, which turns out very badly. But strong-minded, prepared persons can become deliberate hosts for demons, and they subsequently hold important offices as scholars, temple divines, or political agents. Penric winds up becoming all three. In an unprecedented move, he gives his demon a name of her own: Desdemona.
Having a demon makes Penric powerful, but not invincible, and besides the personal dangers of housing a chaos demon, there is the ever-present risk of being killed by persons who earnestly disapprove of those who are demon-bound.
Now Penric is just trying to get home, thank you very much, but the gods - or at least one god, the Bastard - seems to have something else in mind. In a series of misadventures, Penric is taken prisoner by slavers, appointed guardian of two orphan girls who may or may not have a wellborn father who might ransom them, and betrayed over and over by potential rescuers. Eventually he loses his temper. And when Desdemona gets to cut loose, watch out! - Chris Wozney
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