The sixth installment of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series sees Penric setting out on a mission to rescue the mother of the woman he loves, who is currently being held as a political prisoner. This story significantly expands the cast of characters, most of whom are connected to Nikys rather than Penric. These characters are all interesting, and I’m hoping that some of them will appear in future stories.
The earlier novella Penric and the Shaman featured visions of the Father and Son, while Penric’s Demon gave us a direct glimpse of the Bastard. In this story, one character has an experience of the Daughter, which leaves the Mother as the only one of the five deities who hasn’t directly made her presence felt. We know that Penric spent some time with the Mother’s order and that this experience was not, to say the least, wholly positive. I’m wondering if some of his lingering distress over that episode will eventually be resolved by the Mother herself.
In addition to the tension of Penric trying to infiltrate a stronghold and rescue a prisoner, this installment gives us a different kind of drama with Nikys’s relationship to Penric. He’s clearly attracted to her, and she was starting to develop feelings for him as well, but the events of Mira’s Last Dance made her realize that a relationship with Penric is also inescapably a relationship with Desdemona. Aside from the fact of Desdemona being a demon, she’s also female, and Nikys appears to be straight. Naturally, she feels conflicted about all this, and one of the major themes of this story is her working through those feelings.
Although it’s not particularly long, this is a very full story, with some action sequences, great character interactions, and a well-developed romance arc. I’m looking forward to seeing where Penric and Desdemona go next.