RogerBW's Blog

Masquerade in Lodi, Lois McMaster Bujold 16 December 2021

2019 fantasy novella in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion). In the not-Venice city of Lodi, Penric's called to look at a madman recovered from the sea. Sure enough, he's got a demon riding him. Then he runs away.

In publication order this is quite recent, but by internal chronology it's relatively early, soon after Penric's abandoned his position as a physician-sorcerer in training. Bujold can still write, and she still writes interestingly; this isn't a series that's worn down by familiarity, and there's clearly plenty still to explore.

But it does sometimes feel a bit small – a person met in narrative role A turns out to be in narrative role B too, and someone else starts acting a little hinky in a way that the experienced reader of mystery stories will instantly recognise as worthy of suspicion, so it's a little unfortunate when Penric doesn't. (If he did, a little earlier, there'd be more of a sense of tension before the dénouement as well as just at it.)

But after a loose and sometimes frustrating start things tighten up well in the second half. We also get a tour of the city of Lodi during the Bastard's Eve festival, and an immensely pragmatic consideration of the importance of appearances in a city full of strangers. We get people, particularly a saint of the Bastard we haven't met before, who's reached her own accommodation with this unasked-for holy status. (And can a demon-ridden sorcerer work with a saint whose primary job is to eat demons? Well, carefully…)

There's some conversation with Desdemona, but not a great deal, and very little magic. It's not really that sort of book. But still great fun.

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Previous in series: Penric's Fox | Series: Penric and Desdemona | Next in series: Penric's Mission

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