RogerBW's Blog

The Orphans of Raspay, Lois McMaster Bujold 15 January 2021

2019 short fantasy novel in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion). On his way home from a pointless job, Penric's ship is captured by pirates, and he finds himself responsible for two orphaned girls.

So there's pretty much no Nikys in this one, which is a shame. But there is plenty of Desdemona, since she's the only friendly adult available as Pen finds himself imprisoned and awaiting either ransom or slavery, depending on someone else's whim.

The feeling of practical world-building that I've sometimes had from these books before is back in force; the events here are a worked example of just how difficult it is to steal a boat for a long-distance voyage, which many fantasy protagonists might manage quite casually. Furthermore there's a good look at just how a piratical society can work, and why it persists (at the very least you need someone to buy the loot).

One major element of the resolution seems to rely rather heavily on coincidence; yes, all right, it's plausible and valid on its own terms, but it seems to me to diminish Penric's role as protagonist. Perhaps the point is meant to be that this is a problem he can't fix on his own, but even so…

Still we have plenty of Penric working out how to use his and Desdemona's abilities to cause the right sort of chaos and destruction, and the girls are good if somewhat thinly-written.

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Previous in series: The Prisoner of Limnos | Series: Penric and Desdemona | Next in series: The Physicians of Vilnoc

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