Penric & Desdemona by Lois McMaster Bujold


Apparently Lois McMaster Bujold has decided to retire, which is somewhat dismaying as she has long been one of my favorite authors. On the other hand, what she’s decided to do in her semi-retirement is write novellas instead of novels and semi-self-publish them. (Spectrum Literacy Agency is listed as the publisher rather than a regular publishing house.) They are absolutely delightful and I love them and all three of the novellas that have come out so far have come out in 2016. The stories are available for purchase as Kindle books within weeks of them being written so I can track them on facebook.

These novellas: Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman, and Penric’s Mission (so far), are in the series, Penric & Desdemona, about a young man named Penric who acquires a demon he names Desdemona. In this world the acquisition of a demon is what makes an individual a sorcerer, “much like the acquisition of a horse makes an individual a rider.” The Church, which has oversight of the demons in this world, is not best pleased with the situation. Penric is sweet and adorable and Desdemona is a delight.

The stories are set in Bujold’s world of the five gods. The five gods being the Father, the Mother, the Brother, the Sister, and the Bastard (each of whom are interesting characters in their own right although only appearing for the briefest of scenes.)

I whole-heartedly recommend those books as well, each of which has the interesting aspect of being able to stand alone, although I recommend just going ahead and reading them all, and at least the first two in order.


The Curse of Chalion is the first book and a standard (beautifully done) fantasy novel of adventure and court politics.


Paladin of Souls is set some years later and shares some characters with The Curse of Challion but mostly through references, and is interesting in its main character being a middle-aged woman, mother and widow, who has had a rough life and is trying to find her place again… with much adventure and court politics.


The Hallowed Hunt shares no characters with the other books except for the gods, and is actually set in a whole different country and time period. This one has the most intriguing and heart-breaking villain story arch that I think I’ve ever run across and is amazing, especially since I still love the main characters and want them to succeed.

And then the Penric novella’s come in and it’s only in reading them that I can put together the time line, since they’re set some centuries after The Hallowed Hunt and but some time before The Curse of Challion.

Anyway, I love all of these and think you should read them all, but I mostly needed to just gloat with joy about the three Penric & Desdemona novellas that have already been made available with murmurs of at least two more. Yay! They are wonderful!


3 comments on “Penric & Desdemona by Lois McMaster Bujold

  1. Anna says:

    Man, I really enjoyed these a lot! They reminded me a bit of The Thief series which I think we’ve all raved about here, in that each one gets a little more complicated and delves deeper in the characters and the world than the previous one, so reading them back-to-back is a really nice unfolding of layers, so to speak.

  2. John Cowan says:

    Now we have five Penric novellas, hurrah hurrah.

    But as for the chronology, Great Audar corresponds to Charlemagne, who was crowned in the year 800 our calendar (which of course has no meaning in the 5GU). So that puts The Hallowed Hunt around the year 1000. In the same way, Iselle of Chalion and Bergon of Ibra correspond to Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, who married in 1474, thus nailing down the other end of the timeline.

    I wonder if in about 20 years, Bergon and Iselle will be sending a navigator from Adria on a wild quest to find a shorter route to the mysterious Occident (home of Martensbridge silk and other marvels) by sailing East.

    • Rebecca says:

      Yup! Yay for Penric’s Fox!

      And huh, I hadn’t realized that Bujold had based the series on those historical figures. I should probably read more actual history.

      But man, if there were going to be stories based on an explorer in that timeframe, I’d want Marco Polo before Columbus.

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