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On his way to his betrothal, young Lord Penric comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady on the ground, her maidservant and guardsmen distraught. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine, servant to the five gods of this world. Her avowed god is The Bastard, "master of all disasters out of season", and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric's life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.

Set in the fantasy world of the author's acclaimed novels THE CURSE OF CHALION, PALADIN OF SOULS and THE HALLOWED HUNT, this novella has the depth of characterization and emotional complexity that distinguishes all Bujold's work.

103 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 6, 2015

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About the author

Lois McMaster Bujold

167 books37.8k followers
Lois McMaster Bujold was born in 1949, the daughter of an engineering professor at Ohio State University, from whom she picked up her early interest in science fiction. She now lives in Minneapolis, and has two grown children.

Her fantasy from HarperCollins includes the award-winning Chalion series and the Sharing Knife tetralogy; her science fiction from Baen Books features the perennially bestselling Vorkosigan Saga. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages.

Questions regarding foreign rights, film/tv subrights, and other business matters should be directed to Spectrum Literary Agency, spectrumliteraryagency.com

A listing of her awards and nominations may be seen here:


A listing of her interviews is here:


An older fan-run site devoted to her work, The Bujold Nexus, is here:


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,009 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,572 reviews8,225 followers
November 16, 2021
I grew up reading Brooks’ Shannara series, soon followed by Eddings’ Belgarion. The format is always the same, likely all based on Tolkien or Jung or someone; really, just classic coming-of-age hero’s quest. Bujold, for some odd reason, decided Penric was the story waiting for her in retirement. I’m all for projects in retirement, but this certainly isn’t the one I would have expected, feeling, as it does, exceedingly young/new adult style with themes that feel very familiar to memories of thirteen year-old carol.

At any rate, Penric and the Demon feels both young and familiar; a largely pleasant and annoyance-free journey down memory lane (as opposed to some of the more unconsidered tropes about race and gender that come with the aforementioned books). Penric is accidentally imbued with a demon, which is a kind of elemental that’s been handed down from person to person. There are now is up to ten personalities, not counting the tiger and the horse, but when Penric offers the collective the name of ‘Desmonda,’ they are quite touched. Thus begins a very new chapter in both their existences, where Penric has to learn to work with a sometimes willful demon, and Desmonda learns to work with a host that trusts them.

Interesting stuff, but it’s clearly mostly set up. Penric is painfully young and rather self-effacing, being the third of three brothers, so it’s sometimes a challenge to witness his naivete. There’s a definitely pastoral feel to the book, where nothing seems very high stakes for long. It makes for a pleasant palate-cleanser, but not anything to rave about. I'm a bit mystified by the Locus and Hugo nods, and suspect it has more to do with Bujold's reputation. Still, it was interesting enough that I eventually went on to the second, Penric and the Shaman.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,102 followers
February 9, 2017
I can honestly say that I enjoyed this novella set in the Chalion universe more than all the other tales so far. It's a simple one about a boy landing into trouble and making good by it as well as the solid start to the rest of his life, like all coming of age stories, but this one highlights and shines the peculiar nature of the spirits and of magic in Bujold's universe.

There's no real meandering. This is a short but very beautifully executed tale that surprised tears out of my eyes by the last line. Maybe I was just in the mood for something like this: for friendship and faith and devotion, and maybe it's just a testament to Bujold and her writing, but either way, this novel was a hugely satisfying tale. It makes me feel good and all warm and tingly afterward.

No previous Chalion reading required. Everything is there to understand what's going on, but the significance and the strange and wonderful history of the Bastard and his people, the weight of it, might improve upon a reader's enjoyment. Maybe. Maybe not. Hell, this one might actually be the best starting point, all things considered.

I'm going to have a very hard time picking 2016's best Hugo Novella, for between Polansky's The Builders and Penric's Demon, both are truly excellent tales even if they come from wildly different traditions and aim at wildly different ends. I'm going to have to deliberate longer on this, maybe even dither until the voting process begins. :)
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews927 followers
March 14, 2021
She took a deep breath, through his mouth. “You looked a god in the eyes. And spoke for me. There is nothing in my power that I will ever refuse you, after that.”

Interview: Lois McMaster Bujold - Lightspeed Magazine

It's strange that in Lois McMaster Bujold's story of a demon taking up residence in the mind of a young lord about to be married, the first word that comes to mind to describe it is charming. Be warned, I used the same word to describe Martha Wells' Murderbot Series. Penric's Demon is a very well written and complete story (despite being a novella) that opens up an interesting new world. My first time reading Bujold, but I will make it a point to read more. 4.5 stars

“Pen wanted to ask if becoming a sorcerer made a man more, or less, attractive as a husband, but he had an uneasy feeling that he could guess.”
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
October 22, 2020
So I'm in the middle of working my way through Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series, and a 100-page novella seemed like a really good break from a 1000-page epic last night!

"Penric's Demon" is the first in a series of fantasy novellas by the amazing author Lois McMaster Bujold (she of Vorkosigan Saga fame). This one didn't knock me over - I think it's probably too short to really do that - but it's a solid beginning and a unique fantasy world.

Penric, the younger son of a rural baron's family, is traveling to meet the girl he's been arranged to marry when he meets up with the caravan of a woman who's dying in the road. He offers whatever assistance he can, the woman accepts it ... and Penric's life is completely upended. For the woman was a respected sorceress carrying a "demon" within her, and the demon has now hopped to Pen and is making herself comfortable in his body, using his mouth to speak, etc.

Everyone promptly freaks out. Demons endow the person they're living in with magical powers, and this one (who Pen names Desdemona) is a particularly powerful (not to mention valuable) demon and Penric is in no way trained to handle it. His betrothed regretfully breaks their engagement and Pen, along with his demonic rider, is shipped off to the closest office of the god that the demon belongs to. Where more problems await both Pen and Desdemona.

It took me a little while to absorb the concept that demons, as used in this book, aren't your typical evil spirits. They're more like a broken-off piece of the god, but they can develop personalities and have strong opinions ... which Desdemona does. And they can cause a huge amount of trouble if they take over and control their human. But Pen treats Desdemona with more respect and consideration than most of her prior humans have, and she seems inclined to work with him despite his being so young and untrained.

A good set-up, and I'm looking forward to the next one in this series!
Profile Image for Emma.
2,509 reviews853 followers
March 11, 2018
Loved this! I’ve only read one other book by this author and that was part of her sci fi series. But at heart I am a fantasy fan and this was terrific. It reminds me of ‘A Skinful of Shadows’ in terms of how the demon possession works. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of these novellas.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
September 8, 2015
I've been saving this for the right time, which seemed to be today. Because I love the Chalion books as much as I love Miles and Company, I knew I would plunge happily into this world again, and this lovely novella fulfilled all expectations.

The voice is perfect for a hapless young man who has not discovered his own depths, full of humor with tender moments, tense moments, and the flash of the numinous that I so love in these particular books.

My only complaint is that it left me craving more set in this world.
Profile Image for Teal.
608 reviews201 followers
November 3, 2021
Well, that was fun. What was intended to be a quick perusal of the Kindle sample turned into I MUST BUY THIS AND READ IT RIGHT NOW DO NOT STAND IN MY WAY. The premise/setup and the clever, assured writing made for a narrative I found irresistible.

This fantasy novella launches young and naive-but-not-obnoxiously-so Penric into a series of adventures with a body-sharing demon he names Desdemona. It's a strangely heart-warming alliance, and as soon as I finished I bought the next book in the series.

Of course I'd heard of Bujold before, but I *think* this is my first time reading her. I could be wrong — she's been around a long time writing spec fic, and I've been around a long time reading spec fic, so maybe I read a short story or two of hers back in the day. Based on this book, I'd say she knows what she's doing. So much so that it made me wonder if she'd ever been named a SFWA Grand Master — and sure enough, she was, just last year. :)
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
February 14, 2016
Good, old-fashioned fantasy that'll leave a smile on your face.

'Penric's Demon' brings us back to the world of the Chalion books, but it's a stand-alone story. While on his way to his betrothal, a young man encounters an elderly woman on the road who's been taken ill. He stops to see if he can assist, but she's just had a heart attack, and dies in his arms. Significantly, she was no average woman, but a Learned Sorceress, and upon her death, her 'demon' transfers into Penric's body. The 'demon' is an amalgamation of the personalities and knowledge of not just the recently-deceased Learned Ruschia, but of a dozen predecessors. Normally only a highly-trained and privileged individual is permitted to acquire a demon, as the situation can be quite dangerous. Will Penric be able to handle it? What will the authorities have to say about his anomalous state? And what will it all mean for his future?

A must for fans of Bujold; I think this will also appeal greatly to those who enjoy Robin Hobb.
Profile Image for Gavin.
885 reviews397 followers
September 2, 2017
Penric's Demon is the first in a series of novellas set in Lois McMaster Bujold's World of the Five Gods series. If this first outing for Penric and Desdemona, his demon, is anything to go by then this series is going to be every bit as good as the fantastic Curse of Chalion. This followed the story of young Lord Penric who contracted a demon after stopping in the road to help an injured Temple Divine. That Temple Divine was a sorcerer and after she died her demon jumped to the unwary Penric!

I enjoyed the story. Like the other books in the series the pacing is fairly sedate but there is enough mystery, intrigue, and action to keep the story interesting. It also helps that Bujold has an engaging writing style and that her stories always have a good balance of serious drama and humor.

The characters were great. Penric was an unusual Bujold lead. Usually we get older characters who have suffered through tough lives and are looking for a bit of redemption but that was not the case here as Penric was a young and fairly innocent soul. The real plus was the fact that Penric was super likeable. His demon was great. Desdemona was an amalgamation of the other souls she had inhabited. All of them had previously been female which was unlucky for poor Penric but made for some hilarious moments for the rest of us!

All in all I think this was a good read and a promising start to what looks like being a fun new series.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Audio Note: I think Grove Gardner did a decent job with the audio.
Profile Image for Allison.
554 reviews574 followers
September 16, 2017
Novellas are always a bit tricky for me. It's hard to get invested in something so short. Given how short it is, this one took its time to get going. The first half is slow. But once it started moving, I remembered why I love this world. I'm hoping the next one will be better because half of it won't be taken up with Penric learning what it means to be a sorcerer. I like both him and his demon though. Looking forward to reading more about them.
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
974 reviews94 followers
May 24, 2020
This is a lovely little novella about how young Penric comes by a demon and learns to work with “her”. Plenty of strange otherworldly occurrences and even peril. A typical young man with an ancient guide makes for great entertainment.
Profile Image for Gabi.
698 reviews123 followers
May 17, 2020
This was so much fun! Lois McMaster Bujold definitely is one of the best character writers out there. She manages to give them depth in a wonderfully humorous way that had me giggling throughout the novella.

By accident young Penric gets possessed by a rather sassy demon who consists of 10 women, a lioness and a mare and has to figure out how to go on with his life from thereon. Yes, it is as crazy as it sounds and opens the door for all kind of funny, embarrassing and interesting scenes. LMB takes full advantage of this inventive situation and delivers a first volume that sparkles on every page without ever becoming slapsticky.

I'm more than happy that there are 7 more novellas before me.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 70 books999 followers
July 13, 2015
Deliciously fun, and I think it would probably work fine as a standalone - but reading it made me want to re-read the whole World of 5 Gods (Chalion) series all over again! (It's one of my very favorite fantasy series ever, so I've re-read all three full-length books in the series many times already...and will many times again! PALADIN OF SOULS, in particular, is one of my favorite fantasy novels ever - but they're all wonderful.) Penric is a wonderful hero - sweet, thoughtful, deeply ethical, and far, far more intelligent than anyone around him assumes. And his demon is enormously fun! I would happily read many more stories about them.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,434 followers
September 10, 2018
2nd read, this time on audio: Still love Penric to bits!

A fantastic mini-episode in the Chalion/World of the Five Gods series. In internal chronological order, this comes before The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, but I think I enjoyed it more and understood what was going on with the demons / influence of the gods because I had read the other books first. Penric is a naive country bumpkin lord, with a good heart, and I appreciate a story that rewards the honesty and goodness of a character. Plus, SO well written!
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,529 reviews979 followers
September 14, 2021

I was looking for an easy read from a reliable storyteller and I thought Lois McMaster Bujold has been one of top names for the stuff, even when she prefers the shorter narrative form.

The first novella featuring Learned Penric of Martensbridge is set in the same fantasy universe as her Chalion trilogy, now better known as The Five Gods world. This is a good thing, since I liked the first two books in that earlier trilogy quite a lot. As a side note, the Sharing Knife books are also set in the same fictional universe, but in an earlier period.

Penric himself is the young son from a minor titled family in the Cantons: a mountainous region that bears striking similarities to Switzerland. Their domain is more like a glorified farm, and Penric as a young man is about to reluctantly settle down to marriage and continuing the family tradition instead of going out into the larger world in search of knowledge and adventure.

A chance encounter on the road to the Temple of the Five Gods and an honest offer of mercy and assistance to an old lady in distress lands Penric in deep trouble as the lady in question, with her dying breath, transferred an ancient demon into Penric’s body. The two entities must now learn to cohabitate or be mutually destroyed, leading to a series of long travels, adventures and higher learning: exactly what the young man was secretly dreaming about.

For such a short introduction to this old/new setting from the author, the first novella does a sterling job of pulling the reader into the story. The first person narration is humorous and earnest, veering sharply into moral and philosophical issues when the situation demands it. The interaction between Penric and his demon (an amalgam of twelve previous owners of the female persuasion) is charming, one of the best ways to introduce some feminist talking points into the conversation. This conglomerate of past personalities is promptly named Desdemona, or Des, by Penric although each past bearer of the demon is named and is apt to take precedence in the young man’s mind.

Another thing that I find praiseworthy about the novella is the fact that it actually has a plot and some intense action in it, not only conversations about Gods and demons. My only real complaint is that I finished the lecture much too soon, but this is easily remedied with the next instalments, already published.


I rarely buy books based on the cover alone, but even if I haven’t read The Curse of Chalion, I would have picked this up for its fine rendering of a castle that looks very much like Chateau de Chillon on Lake Geneva. [Castle Martenden in the novella]
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books750 followers
April 26, 2019
Okay, my friend Anna was right, I am glad I gave this a shot.

I have not been successful in enjoying LMB books so far, but this one was everything I'd been promised: funny, cute, swashbuckle-y, lots of cool magic.

No creepy age differences, no dubious consent, no horrific sado-masochism.

It's quite short, so I won't do my normal break down. It's a fun short story about a boy whose fate is changed when he meets a woman or 12, and befriends them/her.

Very similar to "Curse of Chalion" in the feel of the writing and the world but much funnier and no weird sex stuff.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,634 followers
October 1, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/09/30/...

It’s always a pleasure to return to Lois McMaster Bujold’s World of the Five Gods, which is also the setting of her books like The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls—two of my favorite novels of all time. There’s just so much to love about this world, not least of all the phenomenal world-building featuring some of the richest lore and history I’ve ever encountered in the fantasy genre. One thing of note is the major role that religion plays in this universe. Fate and free will are often recurring themes in the stories set in this world, as well as the question of divine intervention.

The novella Penric’s Demon is a good example of this, following the misadventures of a hapless mortal caught up in the drama of the gods. Lord Penric, our protagonist, is on his way to his own wedding when he suddenly chances upon a halted traveling party on the road. An elderly woman had fallen ill, and like good citizen, Penric decides to lend a hand.

Turns out though, the woman is a Temple divine pledged to The Bastard, one of the five gods in the Quintarian theology, the others being the Mother of Summer, Father of Winter, Son of Autumn, and the Daughter of Spring. As you can imagine, The Bastard is often regarded as the odd one out; His is the domain of all disasters out of season, and though his presence is accepted as a requirement for balance, in some religions he’s even considered to be a demon.

And speaking of demons, the old lady also ends up being a Learned Sorceress—one of those rare individuals who carry within them a sentient spirit with the ability to grant their hosts special powers. These spirits are referred to as “demons” despite them not being inherently evil, though sometimes they can be mischievous and hard to control. The divine ultimately succumbs to her illness and dies in Penric’s arms, but not before bequeathing him her demon, an act that changes the young lord’s life forever.

I admit, my feelings can be real fickle when it comes to novellas. I often find myself disappointed with them because I feel the short format is too limiting, and not enough time is given to the development of the story or characters. However, this one was an absolute pleasure to read. Bujold is a master when it comes to characterization and world-building, and these duo strengths really made this book stand out.

Not only does it offer a closer look at the lore of this world, I also greatly enjoyed the interplay between Penric and Desdemona, the name he decides to give to his new demon. Penric himself is a fantastic protagonist, a kind-hearted and considerate man who realizes he has been given a sacred gift. He also knows he is lucky not to have been destroyed by the entity now riding in his body, because not everyone has what it takes to host a demon. Despite being in way over his head, Penric still tries to do the right thing, striving to learn how to control his powers. His status as an outsider also gives him a unique point of view. For example, even after being with almost two dozen hosts, Desdemona remarks how not a single one of them had thought to give her a name until Penric came along. Their early days together are a source of constant humor and unexpected surprises. The story completely sucked me in, and the ending left me smiling and feeling excited for the next adventure.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
3,000 reviews1,643 followers
May 14, 2018
I've been putting this off for a while now because . . . I don't honestly know why. Mood or stupidity, probably. Or both. Finally, I noticed that it's part of the Audible Romance Subscription, for whatever reason (it's not a romance, not even a little) and I couldn't resist.

Anyway, it's Bujold, so you know it's going to be good. And it is. It's short but Bujold still takes the time to establish the setting, characters, and plot. For most of the story, it's pretty leisurely (though very interesting) but when the pace picks up, it does so wonderfully.

The biggest draw for me is Penric. He's kind and a little naïve, but not stupid. I loved seeing him navigate the changed circumstances his kindness lead him into and not least in his relationship with his new demon. I'll definitely be picking up the next story, though I'm not promising it won't be a while as I'm as moody/stupid as ever...
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews315 followers
September 13, 2017
This pretty much lived up to what I hoped it would be exactly: A fun fast-paced read with lots of adventure and humor and a bit of action.

Full review to come...
Profile Image for Stephen.
456 reviews53 followers
December 23, 2021
A solid meh.

The story centers on nineteen year old Penric, a minor Lordling of Jurald, who on his way to be wed happens on an ill sorceress and her retinue. Penric seeks to aid the sorceress who with her dying breath passes her demon and the source of her power to Penric. The rest of the novel recounts Penric's attempts to understand the demon now inhabiting him.

My first Bujold. It's pleasant but very little happens. The entire book is basically setup for the rest of the series.

Your enjoyment will likely hinge on your taste for Penric. For a nineteen year old Lordling, Bujold writes him as incredibly innocent, and not very bright; more likable puppy than young man. And like a puppy Penric is mostly led through this tale vs create his story.

Penric learns about the demon whom he names Desdemona (it has been passed down through generations of women prior to Penric), through timid queries, like a boy questioning a great aunt, which is a fair assessment of their relationship. This approach unfortunately leads to a lot of Q&A and very little action beyond riding a horse and walking around a room. The single action sequence near the end is ok but not particularly thrilling. It concludes with yet more Q&A. Sigh. I would have much preferred the demon make something happen (a fire, lightening bolts, an earthquake, the possibilities are endless) that Penric then needs to learn to control than the many pages of exposition. A few inadvertent disasters would also add some humor to the story that feels strangely missing given the narrative is otherwise quite light and frothy. It would also drive some much needed growth in young Penric's character, which is very flat and one note as is.

On my buy, borrow, skip scale: Worth the $2 e-book asking price on Amazon if you'd like to test drive the series. I did not find enough interesting to merit continuing the journey.
Buddy read with Carol, Dylan and Anna. Thanks guys.
13 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2017
I feel very ambivalent about this novella. I was jubilant to see a new book out by Ms. McMaster Bujold. She is one of my very favourite authors. As per expectation, the writing is brilliant, engaging, immersive, well edited. A shoo-in for a 5 star rating.

Unfortunately when I bought it on Amazon it was not made obvious that I was looking at a novella (not that that would've deterred me in the slightest - this author's novellas are a better read than other authors' tomes) but, in this case, when I reached the end of my new ebook I was let down. It just stops. There is a setup that promises so much more story, but it just stops dead after what I'd consider a side plot has been resolved.

Totally happy while I was reading it, but feeling let down with the brevity and the abrupt end. I'd've loved to read the other 2/3 of this story; the ones we didn't get to see. The characters were just beginning to really develop and worm their way into my heart when

(yeah, like that)
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,634 reviews112 followers
June 18, 2023
I was not expecting the humor that was sprinkled throughout this, but Penric was a fun POV character as he figures out how to live with the demon he finds himself suddenly possessed with.

This was only 4 hours, but it still does a good job of setting up this world without bogging down the story with unnecessary exposition. Even though this is set in an already established world, I didn't feel like I was missing anything for this being my first book by Bujold.

However, there weren't any surprises here either, which could just be because this is a novella. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're looking for nuance, just know that you won't find it here. I liked Penric and Desdemona, and the side characters were well done too.
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books74 followers
September 7, 2015
After a string of DNFs, this little gem was a pleasure to read. Set in a fantasy world, it tells a story of a young naive man Penric, a nineteen-year-old lordling from an impoverished noble family, accidentally acquiring a demon.
For those unfamiliar with Bujold’s fantasy realm, a note of explanation: demons are not evil creatures. They are sentient spirits able to reside in a human body and share that body with its human owner. It’s the only way for a demon to exist in the human world, and they jump from body to body upon the death of their current host. In return for using the human body, they grant their hosts the ability to work magic – the demon hosts are sorcerers.
Of course, the host must have a strong will not to allow his demon to control him: demons tend to be mischievous. Moreover, a stringent theological education is required to receive a demon. There is a god (or gods, plural) involved.
A line up for new demons is very long among the top clerics of the country, and the competition is fierce. But sometimes, accidents happen, old sorcerers die unexpectedly on a remote country roads, and the only host available for the old demon would be a chance encounter, a teenage boy who doesn’t know anything more than what his mother taught him.
Penric’s first action in his dealings with his demon is to give the demon a name. He doesn’t know it’s not done. He doesn’t know demons are not supposed to have names. He just knows that it is not polite nor convenient to call anyone: “Hey, demon.” Upon consideration and consultations with his demon, they settle on the name Desdemona. Penric read a story of Desdemona once and liked it, and the demon’s previous dozen hosts all had been women, so the name sticks.
This charming novella offers its readers a wonderfully funny romp and a great new character on the verge of manhood. Characterization is this author’s forte, and Penric’s character shines in this tale. In the beginning of the story, he longs for a small adventure. He never aspired to become a sorcerer or to get entangled in temple politics, but when the grand adventure finds him and the demon jumps into his body, he deals with this new twist in his life with a cool head and a deep compassion for anyone around him, even his demon.
I was enchanted.
Profile Image for Robin Bonne.
632 reviews141 followers
January 8, 2019
Why haven’t I ever read any Lois McMaster Bujold before now? I finally understand why she is referred to as a scifi/fantasy master.

I got this out from the library on a whim, as I was feeling like escaping from the gloomy January weather into a fantasy world. This novella delivered more than I was expecting. The characters were intricate, but not overwritten. The story had all the adventure I was craving.

It is about time I investigate the rest of this author’s books.
Profile Image for OhWell.
742 reviews
September 12, 2017
A little gem with highly likable characters, an engaging storyline, some hilarious moments, and an "Aww..." ending. The only caveat: you have to be familiar with the World of the Five Gods to get the most out of it.
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
266 reviews79 followers
July 13, 2021
This is the incredibly gentle story of the growing bond between a (female) demon and her mount (or is that rider?) a young, minor lord. It’s a simple but elegant tale, with soft humour and nicely understated dramatics.

"Congratulations. You're a sorcerer." He pursed his lips, and added more judiciously, "The gods do not act for our ends, but for Theirs. Presumably, the god has some interesting future in mind for you–for you two. This is not a blessing. Good luck. You'll need it."

Penric is nineteen and the younger brother of an impoverished, minor valley lord. Riding to his wedding, he stumbles upon a dying sorcerer and is possessed by his powerful demon. All of a sudden, his well laid-out life is in tatters and he must travel to the city to discover what’s to become of him.

Having already read The Curse of Chalion and its two successors, it’s hard to say whether you could read this book without reading them. I think it’s possible, as Bujold does explain the world (if sparingly) as she goes, but I’d recommend reading at least The Curse of Chalion first, mostly to get a grounding in the world of the five gods, but also because it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Penric, or Pen, is divine - both in terms of character appreciation and his upcoming profession. He doesn’t flap or panic, despite ample reason, but has a kind, empathetic heart and a wry humour. When possessed, he doesn’t glory in his new power or scream at the unfairness of life, he simply endeavours to get to know his new companion and to gift her what indulgences he can in her newfound home. He’s humble and unassuming and I wanted to wrap him up and take him home with me.

'Dear gods. Have I just acquired a council of twelve invisible older sisters?'

Penric's demon, Desdemona, is not so much a single entity but a council of twelve: the inherited knowledge and personalities of the demon's previous (all female) mounts. She’s surprisingly angelic for a demon, but can be a fire-brand when she wants, taking charge to ensure the best bargain for her new-found silks or to get Pen out of a tight spot. I can’t wait to see her bond with Pen develop; no doubt there'll be banter and some awesome displays of power to come.

"Oooh, I've not felt it from this angle before. This should be interesting. [An inside joke for those who've read the book :-D]

The World of the Five Gods has to be one of my favourite fantasy universes. It’s beautifully detailed medieval landscapes and cultural configurations are only outmatched by the (sometimes playful) presence of the five gods on earth, along with their demonic minions. It’s cleverly thought out and endlessly interesting. I’ll continue to keep reading the books as long as Bujold will continue to keep writing them.

All in all, it's a short novel - just 100 pages - and a simple tale, but well told and it'll keep me feeling warm and content for a good long while.

If you liked Penric's Demon, you might like:
Sheepfarmer's Daughter (The Deed of Paksenarrion, #1) by Elizabeth Moon Daggerspell (Deverry, #1) by Katharine Kerr The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1) by Brandon Sanderson The Curse of Chalion (World of the Five Gods, #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold
Profile Image for Joseph.
697 reviews94 followers
June 10, 2016
In which I am reminded that I have read very little Bujold, and this is a deep, personal moral failing on my part.

So Penric is the younger son of a rural noble family, about to get married and shuffled off into obscurity when, by chance, he finds himself possessed by, or possessed of, a demon (that being how sorcerers work in this world; they're "ridden" by demons who can help them perform magic). In short order, he finds himself sent off to the big city where complications ensue as he & the demon (whom he names Desdemona; she's primarily ridden women, so being a young man is a bit of an ... adjustment) try to reach some kind of accommodation and he has to deal with the fact that some other people are not happy that he ended up hosting the demon rather than it being hosted by them.

Fast-paced, utterly delightful, and if I had one minor, niggling complaint, it's that it's one of those books where it feels like you reach the last page and instead of THE END it should say THE BEGINNING ...
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books272 followers
June 15, 2020
A quick, satisfying novella set in Bujold's universe which began with The Curse of Chalion. While the protagonist Pen was fairly predictable I did enjoy seeing through the eyes of someone who was more farmboy than lord, though Pen was a bit of both. Mostly, though, I loved Desdemona's character. The slow revelation of her personality was the best part of the book for me.

This felt less like a settled novella than the first act in a book, which is being given to us novella by novella. The story was also fairly simple unless one revels in world-building.

As I say, I enjoyed it but I am glad I picked it up from the library.
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