You may all have already known about this, but there’s another Penric and Desdemona novella out: The Physicians of Vilnoc. It came out in May, at which point I missed it; I just spotted it a couple of days ago and read it at once.
When a mysterious plague breaks out in the army fort guarding Vilnoc, the port capital of the duchy of Orbas, Temple sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are called upon by General Arisaydia to resurrect Penric’s medical skills and solve its lethal riddle.
Wow, how … topical. I do wonder whether LMB had this plot in mind before the start of this year or not; and whether she thought about putting off its release or not. Anyway, fine, I said, I don’t mind a plague story, I guess. So I dove right in.
It is, I must say, not my favorite in the series. I understood why almost at once: there’s too little Desdemona in this story. What we have is a grueling medical ordeal in which Penric works as hard as he can and Desdemona sinks into silent endurance, basically. We get way less witty commentary than usual. Nothing new develops in the relationship between Desdemona and Penric, and nothing new develops in what Desdemona can do, and basically there is nothing new, period. Nikys is almost completely absent too, so there goes another chance to develop an important relationship.
There’s essentially no action either, other than grinding forward one day after another. No daring rescues or escapes, nothing like that. Pour uphill magic into one patient after another, collapse from exhaustion, repeat. I like the dog demon (of course), and I like the new sorcerer who accidentally picked up that little demon. But that element wasn’t enough to make the story sing. Not even close.
So … I liked it, obviously. It’s a perfectly fine story, in its way. But I’m hoping for something with a little more energy next time.