It’s embarrassing, given how much of a Bujold fan I am, that it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this series of novellas set in the world of the Five Gods. My only flimsy excuse is that, though I loved The Curse of Chalion and the books that followed it, this is my least favorite of Bujold’s worlds. I will always and forever read anything she chooses to write in the Vorkosigan universe the minute it is made available to me, and the world of the Sharing Knife is actually one of my favorite fantasy words.
In any case, I enjoyed this novella, in which young Lord Penric, on the way to his betrothal ceremony, encounters a temple divine in need of assistance. She dies, and her demon immediately jumps over to Pen. Suddenly faced with coexisting with a powerful spirit with twelve identities, and without any formal training in sorcery, Pen sets off to seek advice from the nearest Temple to the Bastard.
As always, Bujold’s characterization is flawless. Even in so short a book, Pen is a compelling character, and his demon, whom he names Desdemona, is perhaps even more so. I also love that Penric’s demon is of the Bastard’s order–I forgot, until reading this book, how much I love the Bastard. It’s my favorite bit about this world. The world is governed by five gods–the Mother, the Father, the Son, the Daughter, and the Bastard. The Bastard is the god of chaos, disorder, unruliness, everything that doesn’t fit neatly into its assigned box. I pretty much automatically love everyone who has anything to do with the Bastard.
My only complaint is that this book didn’t feel so much like a novella as the first part of a longer novel. Yes, there was action and resolution, but much of the book concerned Pen getting to know and getting used to Desdemona. The plot felt like an afterthought, and the ending only left me wanting more–it felt more like a beginning than an ending. If I didn’t know there were several more novellas in this series, I’d be unsatisfied. I’m not sure why Bujold chose to break up this story into novellas, but instead of thinking about it overmuch, I’m just going to treat them like the volumes of a single novel, and enjoy them.
The audio is excellent.