Penric’s Mission (2016) is the fourth novella in Lois McMaster Bujold’s PENRIC AND DESDEMONA series which is part of her multiple-award-winning FIVE GODS series (The Curse of Chalion, The Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt). It follows the novellas Penric’s Demon (2015), Penric and the Shaman (2016) and Penric’s Fox (2017) which you should read first to get caught up. Each episode (so far) stands alone, but they (so far) occur chronologically, thus it’s best to read them in this order (which is, confusingly, not the same as the publication order).
Penric and Desdemona, the friendly two hundred year old demon who he hosts, are no longer working as scholars to the Princess-Archdivine. The Bastard’s Order now has them working for a duke who has sent them on a secret political mission that turns out to be a trap. Penric and Desdemona are caught and left in a dungeon to die while the popular general they were sent to meet has been unfairly charged with treason and severely punished. Penric and Desdemona must figure out how to escape the dungeon and save the general and his sister from a terrible fate. Penric suffers quite a lot in this story, but there are some bright spots, too, including a potential romance.
I liked this story better than the previous one (Penric and the Shaman) because it wasn’t about spirit animals and shamans, which I just can’t get too excited about. Penric’s Mission is an exciting (and often scary) adventure which focuses more on Penric and Desdemona who make a great demon-sorcerer team and provide quite a bit of Bujold’s characteristic dry humor. This story was more complicated, with several direction shifts and plot twists. There was plenty of tension as well as serious life-threatening problems for Penric and Desdemona to solve. The suggestion of a romance was also a nice hopeful touch.
I also liked the two new protagonists who were introduced in Penric’s Mission and I’m happy to learn that the next installment, Mira’s Last Dance, features them, too. It’s a direct sequel to Penric’s Mission instead of a stand-alone story. Each of the three PENRIC AND DESDEMONA novellas has been quite different so far. I am hoping that Bujold will be continuing the series in this new direction.
The audio version of Penric’s Mission is 5.5 hours long. I love Grover Gardner’s narration of these stories. He’s perfect. For that reason, I am not going to pick up the Kindle version of Mira’s Last Dance (which was published at the end of February). Instead, I’ll wait until June 13 when the audio version is released by Blackstone Audio. I am eager to learn what happens to Penric, but I know the audiobook will be worth the wait.