Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Physicians of Vilnoc (Penric and Desdemona #9), by Lois McMaster Bujold (author), Grover Gardner (narrator)

Blackstone Publishing, ISBN 9781799939436, August 2020

Penric is happily settled in Vilnoc, and enjoying being a new father, when his brother-in-law, General Arisaydia, shows up at his door--but will not come in--to ask him to come to the army fort. A strange and deadly new disease has broken out, and Arisaydia wants Penric to use his sorcerous powers, and his own and two of Desdemona's previous riders, Helvia and Amberein's, medical training to solve the mystery of it and stop the epidemic.

Penric has worked very hard to avoid taking oath to the Mother and becoming the Sorcerer-Physician he was expected to become when he inherited the demon Desdemona from Learned Ruchia. When acting as a physician, he finds it impossible to accept that some patients are just going to die anyway. But the only physician at the fort, Rede Licata, is very capable but not a sorcerer, and the Mother's Order chapter is too busy with the same sickness in town to spare time for the fort. Penric can't say no.

Rede and Penric are soon struggling to keep up with the increasing number of patients, while trying to identify the cause, and the seemingly random pattern of its spread. It's clearly not spreading person to person. Rede thinks it might be spread by rat fleas, and conducts a dangerous experiment, but that's not it either. As they work to save people, they're both exhausted, Penric is burning out, and some start to fear that the disease is sorcery, and to resist the "uphill magic" treatment Pen can give them. He also, of course, starts to need more than fleas and vermin to dump the accumulated chaos into. When he starts using that accumulated chaos to do the slaughtering for the General's table, it doesn't help his reputation.

Yet unexpected clues start to turn up, along with what is by now unexpected help. Penric has been writing for help from sorcerer-physicians, or just any sorcerers. When the first appears, he's given up expecting anyone--and the first sorcerer to arrive is more unexpected than most.

This is a tale of persistence in adversity, teamwork, cooperation, ingenuity. Penric, Master Rede, and Learned Dubro, are all people I'm glad to have spent time getting to know (or in Penric's case, know better.)


I bought this audiobook.

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