This book concludes the Penric/Desdemona novella series and ends as expected but wraps everything up in a very satisfactory manner. Not only do we have the ongoing story of Penric and his unrequited love for Nikys becoming requited, but we also have him broaching an impregnable fortress to save his potential mother-in-law.
In Orbas, Ny’s brother, Adelis, has gone off to fight a war for his new lord, leaving Nikys as a lady-in-waiting and poor Penric packing to return to his homeland as ordered by his brotherhood. However, his time with Nikys is suddenly extended when she receives a secret communication that her mother has been imprisoned by the same jealous Cedonian lords who had her brother blinded (before Penric healed him). Nikys plans for her and Penric to rescue her mother and bring her out of the country, and our hero is more than willing to prove to Nikys that carrying a chaos demon around with him does not mean he’s not husband material.
Nikys, a widow who worries that sharing intimacy with a demon might be an obstacle to marital bliss, is happy to use him and his magical abilities to free her mother from a religious order on an isolated island. Penric’s chaos demon, Desdemona, has the memories of her previous ten hosts (all women) and provides Penric with his magical abilities.
In previous books, Penric pays the price of using magic through the deaths of vermin and bugs, but in this one most of the payment is in blood. His. His plan to rescue Nikys’s mother entails dressing up as a woman (again), entering the fortress with Nikys, swapping places with her mother, and taking her place. His main goal is to satisfy Nikys, and he really has no idea how to escape afterward.
The appearance of another brother, a bridge-builder from one of Ny’s mother’s earlier sexual encounters, complicates and assists Penric, as does the girlfriend of Adelis and her beloved eunuch (!). This colorful group provide support and information to our heroes while also giving Nikys advice on how to deal with a man who loves her but has demonic issues.
Excellent ending and great writing. I took this book out to the park to read after lunch and finished it as the sun was going down. Lois has a knack for grabbing the reader and keeping them within the book. Don’t start reading one of her books at bedtime or you will be awake until 2 a.m. or later. I prefer her military space adventures with a young hunchback, Miles Vorkosigan, but this fantasy series is funny, captivating, and has some very colorful characters. I’m glad to hear there’s a novel of Penric, Nikys, and there kids coming out. Enjoy.