Books Review: Penric’s Mission and Penric’s Fox, by Lois McMaster Bujold

I’ve read the first two novellas in this series before, and was looking forward to spending some more time in Penric’s unique world.

What to Expect

Two novellas, where the publication order is reversed to the chronological. I usually prefer to read in publication order (as that is usually the order they were written and therefore how the story world was built), but in this case I think the internal chronological order might work better. It seems to have been fixed on Amazon, but not on Goodreads, so just pay attention if you’re tearing through the series.

Penric’s Fox is set soon after the previous novella, Penric and the Shaman. The setting is close to home, and many of the same characters appear as well. In tone, it is a detective story: starting with the discovery of a murdered sorceress, Penric and Inglis are recruited by the Template locator (investigator) to assist. Since all sorcerers get their power from hosting demons, the big question isn’t just who (and how!) did someone kill a sorceress, but where did her demon go?

Penric’s Mission is a spy story, taking place a few years after the previous stories and in a different land. It is clear from the start that there was some “interesting” history, though the details are only revealed much later. Makes for a bit of a confusing, yet tantalising, read. The tone is quite different from the previous, though the writing style and characters are no less charming.

Given that the stories are not related and that the significant time-gap is not covered, chronological order will provide less jumps.

What I liked

I love Bujold’s writing style. She can spin stories and mysteries, characters and world that feel truly immersive and real. It is clean, clear prose that is evocative and engaging, without the need for high angst or thriller-paced drama.

Her world-building is also top notch, from the magic system and theology (the interesting philosophical implication of the gods and associated religion), to the every-day technology and lifestyles of rich and poor alike.

What to be aware of

These are short novellas, not grand epics. Enjoyable reads, but over quickly. Also see note above re reading order — seems like it has been corrected on Amazon, but not on Goodreads.

Felix’s Review

Felix is continually perplexed and intrigued by the concept of spirits that can be possessed and harnessed. For him, that borders of sacrilege, though his can see some similarities in his world. Still, he admits that Penric does a credible job at upholding justice (and, mostly, the law as well), and using his gifts for the general good (he’s seen far too many people in power use it for personal gain). He’d also like to point out that Penric’s powers are growing rather impressively, as he predicted.

Summary

Very enjoyable fantasy series, which, as it’s novellas, I read as a sort of palate cleanser between other works. Whether you sample it sporadically or tear through it, I’m sure you’d enjoy them.


Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He’s the protagonist of the Toags, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of paranormal detective on a background of ancient Rome. You can meet him via the free short stories!

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