RogerBW's Blog

Penric's Mission, Lois McMaster Bujold 27 October 2017

2016 short fantasy novel in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion). Some years after the previous books, Penric and the demon Desdemona have been sent on a diplomatic mission, to recruit a disaffected general for Penric's home of Adria. So first he's accused of spying and thrown into a dungeon…

That's something he and Des can deal with, given time. The ripples that his arrest have had on other people, such as the general he'd come to recruit, and that general's widowed sister, will take longer to die down; but Pen being Pen, he's going to do whatever he can to fix the damage even if he wasn't the proximate cause of it.

Not that he really minds, particularly once he's met said widowed sister. Even if both she and her brother reckon Penric is clearly mad.

There's distrust on all sides, a spy who's good at what he does but less good at thinking outside the box, and a confrontation with another sorcerer. There's lovely writing, as always from Bujold ("fled at an amble"), and two people using the character voice that she's always used a bit but has recently refined (in this series and in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen): the woman slightly older than expected for a heroine, who's seen all that, who's fed up with macho nonsense, and who just wants to get on with things without anybody else getting chopped into bits thank you very much.

The main problem with this book is that, having barely breached the 40,000 word limit that makes it a novel rather than a novella, it ends, not quite in the middle of the action but certainly with nothing resolved. It may be that the platform on which Bujold is publishing this series has length limits; there doesn't seem to be a good reason to break the story here.

Followed by Mira's Last Dance.

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