Note: Contains mild spoilers for the previous PENRIC novellas.
Around 15 years ago, Lois McMaster Bujold published her much-acclaimed WORLD OF THE FIVE GODS series which contained three stand-alone novels: The Curse of Chalion (winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards), Paladin of Souls (winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award, nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award) and The Hallowed Hunt (nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award).
Two years ago she surprised her fans by issuing the first of a series of connected novellas set in the FIVE GODS world. Penric’s Demon told the story of a young man who stopped to help a dying woman and was accidentally possessed by a demon who calls herself Desdemona. In the subsequent novellas, Penric and the Shaman, Penric’s Fox (published later), and Penric’s Mission, we’ve continued to follow the various adventures of Penric and Desdemona.
Mira’s Last Dance (2017) is a direct sequel to Penric’s Mission and, though the first two Penric novellas could stand alone, this one needs to be read after Penric’s Mission. At the end of that story, Penric and Desdemona were on the run with their new companions, Arisaydia, a blind general who Penric has been healing, and Nikys, the general’s widowed sister and a potential love interest for Penric. The group (I’m not sure whether to call them a trio or a quartet) is trying to sneak across the border so they’ll be out of the reach of the Arisaydia’s powerful enemies.
When they are in the most danger, they get some help from an unlikely source — Mira, one of Desdemona’s several personalities which she picked up from the women she has possessed over the past couple hundred years. Mira was a courtesan and her particular skills seem especially useful in this situation. However, Mira now inhabits the body of a young man, so she will have to get creative.
Mira’s Last Dance is an amusing story made even more entertaining by Bujold’s distinctive sense of humor and Grover Gardner’s excellent narration of Blackstone Audio’s 3.5 hour-long audio edition.
It’s clear that Penric’s story is not over (let’s hope not!) and we don’t get much sense of closure at the end of Mira’s Last Dance. Some readers may begrudge these short episodes we’re getting from Bujold, but I don’t. She’s 68 years old and has given us so much treasured literature over the last thirty-something years. I think she’s having fun writing these little stories and I’m happy to accept them in whatever form they come in.