Thursday, 15 June 2017

Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold is the first fantasy novella (or story of any length) that I've read of the author's. Of course, if you've been following my blog you'll know that I've read most of her science fiction. I picked up this novella because it's sequel has been shortlisted for a Hugo Award this year, and someone suggested that I should read them in order.

On his way to his betrothal, young Lord Penric comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady on the ground, her maidservant and guardsmen distraught. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine, servant to the five gods of this world. Her avowed god is The Bastard, "master of all disasters out of season", and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric's life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.

This was an amusing story. It didn't quite make me laugh out loud, but I was certainly entertained. Penric is a younger son of a minor noble who has unusual circumstances thrust upon him on his way to his betrothal. After encountering a sick woman on the road he acquired a demon; a kind of magical being which bestows sorcerous powers on. Usually only trained members of religious orders receive demons, so Penric's situation is a bit vexing for the people in charge of such things.

The story follows Penric as he adjusts and deals with his new situation and, basically, starts having adventures because of it. I found it entertaining even though I was unfamiliar with the world. There's enough worldbuilding in the novella to make sense of it and I didn't have any trouble following what was going on. I was perhaps a little less engaged with Penric than I've felt with Miles and Cordelia in the Vorkosigan books, but that's perhaps an unfair comparison since, so far, Penric has only had one novella to make an impression on me, rather than several novels.

I am looking forward to the next Penric novella (Penric and the Sharman, the Hugo-shortlisted on) and I think whether or not I bother seeking out more will depend on how much I like that one. The main reason I haven't gotten around to Bujold's fantasy books is because I have no shortage of fantasy books by authors whose fantasy works I know I like in my TBR, so I haven't especially felt the need. We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, I do recommend Penric's Demon to fantasy fans looking for something short to read.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2015, Self-pub
Series: Yes. First of ongoing novella series and set in the World of Five Gods which also has a novel trilogy
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from iBooks

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