Continuing the adventures of Penric, the demon hosting priest of Lois McMaster Bujold’s World of the Five Gods, we have two more novellas: Penric’s Mission and Mira’s Last Dance. These are two very closely related stories, so much so that if felt more like reading on novel then reading two novellas. I enjoy these little stories quite a bit, so realizing that I had two unread stories to read was a treat.
In Penric’s Mission, Penric is sent to spy on some duke from some place (I don’t really keep track of the where and what in this world, I believe it’s supposed to be that world’s version of the Ottoman Empire) and it goes terribly, horribly wrong. He escapes and joins a general who was also caught up in the horrible spy gone wrong thing and said general’s sister. In Mira’s Last Dance Penric is escaping the general and his sister to a country that would be more receptive to him. As they flee, there is a need for one of Desdemona’s (Penric’s demon) older personalities to take the forefront.
Of the two, I enjoyed Penric’s Mission a lot more. Both are fun but I thought Penric’s Mission had a stronger plot line. Penric and Desdemona are both super fun characters to read about, though much like Miles Vorkosigan I don’t think I’d ever want to actually meet them. I was a little more bothered this time with the casual way that Penric gets rid of his built up chaotic energy, he mentions killing quite a few creatures, and it started to bother me. Even pests like flies and fleas have a place in the ecosystem, and the vigor with which Penric kills them off in these books had me a little worried (I mean, not super worried, but still). Plus there are a few times when he kills mammals, and what can I say I’m a speciest.
I had one major problem with Mira’s Last Dance in that it danced (ha) finely along the line of consent. Penric poses as a woman in a brothel because reasons and allows the persona of Mira, who was a previous possessor of the demon, to come to the forefront and guide him. It gets to the point where he has a sexual encounter with one of the patrons, and he manages it in such a way that said patron never finds out he’s not a woman. Yea, I have a couple of issues with that.
These are fun novellas, and if you enjoy Bujold’s writing style then these are definitely something you should check out. I will say that I don’t think the story was quite finished in Mira’s Last Dance, it definitely feels like there’s more coming involving these characters (not just Penric, but the general and his sister) and I’m honestly a little annoyed that Bujold didn’t just write a longer novel instead of breaking it up into smaller portions. Is that going to stop me from reading the next book? No, but it’s an annoyance.