Our protagonist, Esp, is one of five college students gone dissolute, begging for money and running small con games together. They seem bound only by their failure to make anything of their privileged backgrounds. Esp has the brilliant idea of founding a religion, and discovers some skills as a preacher. They end up with momentum through some fortuitous predictions and breaks, and as time and success roll on they start taking themselves seriously. I'll save the really fun reveal, but it is safe to say that they grow into their roles in mostly good ways, even without wanting to.
It's all told in fine and competent fashion. I really enjoy K. J. Parker as an author, and think she is destined for fine things. This story should be a contender for an award, but it's missing elements I am finding in common in the other nominated stories:
- LGBT characters, love or sex
- Indications of racial diversity