Penric’s Demon: A new Five Gods story!

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPenric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold fantasy book reviewsPenric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

It’s been ten years since Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite authors, published a story set in her FIVE GODS fantasy world. This is the award-wining series that consists of The Curse of Chalion (2001, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award), The Paladin of Souls (2003, Hugo, Nebula, Locus Award) and The Hallowed Hunt (2005). I read these when they were first released, and I loved them, so maybe you can imagine how happy I was to hear that Bujold has written a new novella set in the same world.

I listened to the audio version of Penric’s Demon, read by Grover Gardner. He has become one of my favorite narrators since I listened to him read most of Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN series. As expected, he does a great job with the narration of this four-hour long novella, and I am pleased to recommend this version to you. You don’t need to be familiar with the FIVE GODS world at all since Penric’s Demon stands alone. In fact, it’s a really good introduction to the three novels in the series. The novels, by the way, can be read in any order.

Penric is a young nobleman whose family has lost its fortune. Penric would love to go to the academy to get an education, but instead his poor family has arranged for him to marry the daughter of a rich cheese maker. As he is on the way to secure the betrothal, he comes upon the caravan of an elderly woman who has had a heart attack. When he stops to help her, she dies and Penric falls unconscious.

Penric's Demon Hardcover – May 31, 2016 by Lois McMaster Bujold  (Author)A day later he wakes up to learn that the old woman was a temple sorceress for the god who is also called “The Bastard.” She was hosting a powerful demon who jumped ship at her death and now resides inside Penric. Humans who host a demon may be able to use its powers to do magic, but a host who isn’t strong enough is likely to be overpowered by the demon. Now everyone is worried that Penric’s body will be taken over by the demon and none of his family or friends wants to touch him. This is bad enough but, in addition, there are other people who have evil plans for Penric and hope to use his misfortune for their gain.

Penric’s Demon is short, so it doesn’t succeed on as many levels as the previous FIVE GODS novels do. The plot is simple and straightforward and, due to time constraints, the characters aren’t explored quite as deeply as we’d expect from Bujold. Still, though, the story is recognizably Bujold’s, with her imaginative world, interesting characters, exciting plot, lovely but succinct prose, and wry sense of humor. I enjoyed the story and was thrilled to be back in Bujold’s fantasy world.

Penric’s Demon was released only in Kindle and audio formats. I am really hoping that our return to the FIVE GODS world means that more novels are forthcoming. For now, I can’t see any evidence either way at Bujold’s website.

Update: Subterranean Press released a hardback version. Also, there are now more novellas about Penric and his demon. Yay!


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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5 comments

  1. I loved Paladin of Souls, and really liked The Curse of Chalion, so I know I would enjoy this. I may have to activate that Audible.com account after all.

  2. Kevin Wei /

    Oh cool, I just finished The Curse of Chalion a few months ago; look forward to reading the other books in this world

  3. dr susan /

    I was thrilled another story featuring the Bastard was available; that god was easily my favorite with his very twisted, quirky sense of humor. I loved Penric’s Demon! Now, I want to reread it :)

  4. Could be a good intro to the series, you say? Hrmm…I may have to check this out.

  5. This series is DEFINITELY high on my TBR list, if only I can find space for it~

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