The third novella in Bujold’s “World of the Five Gods” series presents us with an older and more experienced Penric. Betrayed while on a diplomatic mission to a neighboring country, Penric’s fate becomes bound up with that of a falsely-accused general and his widowed sister.
As with Penric and the Shaman, this installment gives us more development of both the central characters and their surrounding world. Penric and Desdemona have been through a lot since we last saw them, and the effect of those events on them as individuals and on their relationship brings an emotional weight to the story. We’re also introduced to the nation of Cedonia, and its political intrigues are key to the plot. The way the World of the Five Gods gradually expands with each new story is a big part of what makes the setting so compelling to me.
My one complaint was with the ending. Penric and his companions spend much of their time on the road, but Penric’s Mission ends before they reach their destination. The larger plot surrounding the general also didn’t feel like it got a satisfying resolution to me. Some reviewers have suggested that the next novella will immediately follow the events of Penric’s Mission, which would obviously mitigate this. Whether or not that speculation is correct, I’m eagerly awaiting the next chapter in Penric and Desdemona’s adventures.