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5.0 out of 5 starsQuick enjoyable read
Reviewed in the United States on March 1, 2017
The latest installment of Penric and Desdemona's story is a quick enjoyable read. I would recommend reading Penric's Mission first, since this story begins directly after the events in that book. It's more light-hearted than the previous book and is more about exploring the characters and relationships than major developments in the over all plot, and by the end of the book there's clearly more to come. I really enjoy the serial novella format for this Penric and Des's story, which in this case allows the author to flesh out what is essentially a short story interlude in the larger arc. Nicely done.
The tale itself is as I expect from Bujold, satisfying. However, the end, while not a cliffhanger, is not a completion and leaves one quite impatient for the next installment. Which if things go well, is clearly implied to appear at some future date.
In this installment, Pen is continuing his travels with his still endangered companions from his last adventure. Although the ingratitude of the man who's sight he saved leaves much to be desired. How Pen endeavors to assure their safety involves some play acting that continues to bend conventional behavior and explore issues of gender identity that are an ongoing theme in this authors novels. And in another echo from earlier Bujold novels we have potential lovers that are not so gifted at courtship as they are in other areas.
While this novel concludes with journey's end, it leaves the fate of its main character completely undecided. Which happily indicates more Pen will be written, but leaves me with a serious case of impatience.
Prior to this, Penric has been delightfully consistent in being himself. He is courteous to everyone, including Desdemona. His personality remains distinct from hers; they are close but separate persons. In this book, perhaps as a result of having gone slightly crazy in the dungeon, he allows an aspect of Desdemona to completely direct his words and actions (without him checking or filtering her). While slightly weirded out by this, he ends up coming to terms with it easily--after all, Desdemona and all her aspects are part of who he is, he rationalizes. The woman he is romantically interested in is understandably weirded out by this. We are left to wonder, along with her: now that Penric has crossed this line once and decided it is acceptable to do so, will he do so again? Yes, it allows him a variety of useful disguises, but this crossed the line between him having a live-in wise friend with multiple personalities, and him *becoming* the friend with multiple personalities. I have too many people in my life with mental health problems (multiple personalities in particular) to find find this transition in any way amusing. I'll give him another book, maybe, so see if this resolves itself--I like Penric and Desdemona as a pair, not a single entity. If he doesn't mentally separate himself once more, I'm done. I don't want to watch this or see the emotional fall out for the people around him. Also, the story lost a lot in losing the archdivine-princess. This book and the one before it are substantially worse for this loss.
One more wonderful chapter in the life of Penric and his demon, Desdemona. In the last book, we left Penric trying to escape from the country where his first foreign mission had gone decidedly sour. Two other traveler are with him - Adelis - the general he was sent to lure back to Adria, and Nikys, the general's widowed sister. This novella gives us more of their desperate flight. This is made even more difficult by the fact that they must not, at any cost, seem to be fleeing. Sometimes, they must even seem to be different people. Of course, Penric has his Demon, Desdemona, who still has the memories and personalities of every person she ever inhabited. So there is no shortage of ideas, at least!
Lois McMaster Bujold once again shows us her skill with characters. All of her characters feel like real people, even if they live in an unreal world. Even if they can't be said to live at all anymore. Which is true of some of the characters of this novella. We are four stories in, so by now Penric, at least, is accustomed to conversing with people who have been dead for centuries.
I really enjoyed this novella. I found it enjoyable, if all too short. I hope that the author has a couple more of these for us.
I have to admit, I love Bujold's writing, so there is a very clear bias in this work. The sexual content is all in conversation, there is nothing body-on-body in the text. But the conversation includes courtesans/prostitutes talking about their work, so there is some bluntness and very light glossing. There is *one* scene where there is explicit description of someone baring a breast to be worked on in a magical-medical fashion, but there isn't any sexuality to *that*.
Penric is still trailing along with the soldier and his sister. At one point they end up in a town where Penric can't get money his usual way, and they end up helping a brothel get rid of an infestation of crab-lice. In the process, Penric and his demon diagnose cancer in the woman who owns the brothel, and work healing on it. Penric et alia also end up in a somewhat sticky situation, which Penric's demon (in the persona of the courtesan who the demon jumped to ?third? fourth?) gets them out of in a someone startling fashion.
I enjoyed every page of this, at times lost in giggles and snorts of laughter. Bujold is responsible for me finally succumbing to ebooks, and continues to make the fall from orthodoxy worthwhile.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother great addition to the series - but read Penric's Mission first
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 18, 2017
First of all, my firm advice would be to first read Penric’s Mission before plunging into this one. While Bujold’s deft writing won’t leave you floundering, you are coming in halfway through this particular story arc and as it is a novella, it necessarily is more compressed and faster-moving than a novel so there simply isn’t the time to compensate for the inevitable gaps in the backstory.
This is another gem. I have loved the character progression Penric has undergone since becoming an accidental host to twelve demons when a young man setting out to become betrothed. But this adventure has definitely been his greatest challenge so far, though even daily life poses its own problems as a good man trying to accommodate a very powerful chaos demon. Bujold’s talent is to give us a ringside seat while Penric is constantly having to negotiate with the demons riding him, as well as react to a fast-changing and dangerous situation when his inclination is to pore through old manuscripts. I am every bit as entranced with Penric as that half-demented, adrenaline junkie, Miles Vorkosigan.
Penric is also accompanied by General Arisaydia and his sister, Nikys who are on the run from a despotic tyrant. Tension and danger tip into farce as Penric takes some extreme steps to keep the group safe – and in doing so, certainly sacrifices any trust and a fair degree of respect the General had for him. I sniggered throughout this episode, as Penric once more is dumped into the middle of a madcap situation courtesy of his demons that he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams.
As with the other novellas in the series, this one has wormed its way into my head and won’t leave me alone – partly because there is no real closure on the main storyline. But the consolation is that Bujold is evidently on something of a roll with these books and I’m hoping another one is due out before the end of the year. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, start at the beginning with Penric’s Demon – they are not long and reasonably priced – and if you enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan series or appreciate intelligent, character-driven fantasy – you’ll thank me if you do.
5.0 out of 5 starsPenric's Mission Continues (4.5 stars)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 17, 2017
This novella was a delight. Firstly, because it came out so relatively soon after Penric’s Mission, and since it picks up right where that one left off, this is a very good thing. Secondly, I make no secret of how much I adore LMB’s writing, so it always feels like a gift when I find out she’s released something new.
Mostly, though, this novella is a delight because we get to spend so much time with Mira, one of Desdemona’s previous riders. Penric and his demonic companion are natural magnets for trouble (that would be the chaos side of his demon) and it’s always interesting to see how they get out of their latest scrape, especially when the solution is as entertaining and yet strangely touching as this.
Mira was a courtesan a hundred years or so before Penric’s time, but her expertise comes in very handy as Penric attempts to keep his companions – Nikys and former-general Adelis – safe by taking refuge in an unexpected place. I love the inference that prayers to the Bastard God may have brought them there, just not any of that trio’s making.
While less hectic and action-packed than the previous book, I found this every bit as enjoyable because of the way Penric and Desdemona continue to grow and interact. Their relationship is wonderfully complex and seeing Mira emerging from the mix shed further light on Des’ long existence. It also showed just how difficult it can be for Pen at times sharing his head with ten women. Which of course impacts on his tentative, hopeful relationship with Nikys, as yet more impediments are thrown in the way, but I love his relentless optimism and willingness to try.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this. It was great to see what happened next after Penric’s Mission, and also to spend more time with these characters and in this world. I also loved the Romeo and Juliet reference and the slightly farcical turns it all took at times. Still, there was heart and charm and intelligence even at the silliest moments, which just reminds me how much I enjoy this world. Here’s hoping there will be more to enjoy again soon.
This picks up immediately after the last Penric Novella, Penric's Mission, and should be read after it.
Not without cost to himself, Penric has succeeded in rescuing and healing the betrayed General Arisaydia and they are now fleeing across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia towards Orbas with Arisaydia's his widowed sister Nikys. And Penric is falling in love. Penric is complicated. He's inhabited by a demon, Desdemona, who carries the echoes of her previous ten human riders and at any moment they can pop up in Pen's head offering help, advice, or sometimes unhelpful suggestions. When the trio takes refuge in a whorehouse, Mira, one of the aforementioned previous riders, a courtesan comes to the forefront with some rather alarming knowledge. No spoilers because it's funny and sweet, and Penric certainly has to step out of his comfort zone to get them all to safety. Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold is buy on sight. She's one of my all-time favourite writers (perhaps at the very top of the list, in fact). If you haven't read any of the Penric stories yet, I heartily recommend them. I would suggest reading all four in order, but to enjoy Mira's Last Dance, you need only read Penric's Mission to catch up with the story.
4.0 out of 5 starsIs LMB's quality beginning to fade?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2017
When I got to the end I wondered, based on the title, "Is this the last we are going to see of the Mira character from within Desdemona?". I hope not.
Every one of these [now four] novellas has betrayed weaknesses that do not appear in LMB's properly edited novels. The main protagonist is Penric and the unvoiced interactions between him and his resident demon are natural. 'Romance novel'-style head-hopping into another character is just not right; not what I expect from such a formerly-great author. In this novella, the reader is suddenly, without warning, propelled into Nikys' mind on at least three occasions - for just a single paragraph, before reversion to the previous viewpoint. The different internal viewpoints expressed in "Penric and the Shaman" are, at least, divided by chapter.
What I DO like, about the series, is the steady working-out of the possible complexities of demonic interactions in the world of the five gods. On the other hand, the knowledge that Penric is gaining should, surely, have been recorded by his own quill pen? and so available, to Learned dy Cabon, in the future era of "Paladin of Souls" Oh, the perils of writing a series not in the chronological order of the created universe!
Once again, this is a journey, both across the world and in the spirit. You don't need to have read the first two novellas but I think "Penric's Mission" is essential prerequisite reading for this novella.
well written, well paced installment in the saga of penric and his demon, with its many personalities and their experiences...we get a short step further, reach a resting point, but with more to come, i hope... small quibble...87 pages is not very much, and the price is quite high...87 p would have been more suitable...but, ok, i did want to know if penric and his companions reached a reasonably safe haven, so i (grudgingly) paid £ 2.49....for 20 minutes of reading pleasure...oh well, looking forward to the next one...