Lois McMaster Bujold
A World of the Five Gods novella
Spectrum Literary Agency, Inc. (2016)
Lois Bujold is one of my very favourite authors. I adore the Vorkosigan Saga, and feel like I should re-read all her fantasy novels, because I enjoyed them the first time, but need a refresher. Reading another novella set in one of her worlds makes this feeling increase.
Sequel to last year’s Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman picks up a few years later, with Penric now a fully fledged divine, scholar and sorcerer, in partnership with his demon, Desdemona. Penric’s present, relatively peaceful existence is interrupted by the arrival of Senior Locator Oswyl, on the trail of a murderer and requiring sorcerous assistance. The two begin the hunt for the apparent perpetrator, Inglis, who has some uncanny issues of his own to deal with, and when the three finally come together, they realise that perhaps things aren’t quite what they might appear.
I really enjoyed this new Penric instalment, with a few reservations. I was disappointed with the lack of women in the story – yes, a few appear, but they are peripheral to the story and no matter how awesome, just not terribly important. Even Desdemona and her many personalities didn’t really get much of an outing. And while the multiple point of view narration worked quite well, I thought that maybe three were too many for novella length (and to be honest, I felt them a bit unnecessary – more Penric would have satisfied).
Having said that, it was still a very engaging read. I liked the growth of Penric’s character, and his changing maturity was well presented. Another interesting aspect (in both this novella and the other books set in the world) is the exploration of religion that Bujold offers, which is quite different to many I’ve come across. The five different deities and the way they interact with the world are quite fascinating. Terrifying, for some (because a visitation from a god isn’t necessarily reassuring), but fascinating for the reader!
In all, thoroughly worth your while as a reader. I think this novella could be read as a standalone (Bujold does an excellent job in most of her books to ensure that) but it certainly rewards the reader invested in the series. I’m on board for the ongoing Penric journey, and really hope Bujold has more to come!