The second Penric story feels a lot better developed than the first. It’s also about 60 pages longer, which for a novella is quite a difference. Things happen instead of merely happen to Penric.

Penric is not the only viewpoint character here, which is partially a device to keep you from immediately understanding everything he does. Or, maybe, it would be better to say that it’s used to show that the other characters don’t understand everything he does. Meanwhile, we get two new characters, that are central to the story, while Penric is more roped into it.

Penric has had four years to get used to his ‘passenger’, and go through a somewhat rushed education as a divine (it isn’t said, but it’s more likely that Penric hurried through on his own, rather than was pushed through), and has settled into the Martinsburg court before this adventure picks him up. Oswyl is a “Locator”, basically a marshal/detective, who shows very much as a dedicated career cop, and Penric starts mentally categorizing his frowns partway through.

The case he’s on seems clear enough, as it was fairly definitely the knife of the prime suspect who killed a minor noble, and it was obviously in his possession at the time. But motives are cloudy, and the action of the story gets tangled up in a completely different tragedy. Much of the theme here, as in the other Five Gods stories is in the realm of the gods work in mysterious ways. Of course, part of what makes the series work so well is that the gods’ aims are generally comprehensible, its just their side of the problem lies a bit outside the normal human world.

In all, it’s a solid sequel to Penric’s Demon, and better than that story. The expansion to three (okay, four) major characters helps, the tradeoffs in viewpoint are a little jarring at first, but serve the story structure, and the overall plot is in better shape; this ups my recommendation of the series as a whole, and I expect it will continue to get better.