Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

Recommended for fans of gentle YA fantasy
Read October  2021
★  ★  1/2

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 its Hugo and Locus nods, and suspect that had more to do with fan base being thrilled she was still writing than actual quality. Still, it was interesting enough that I eventually went on to the second, Penric and the Shaman.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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7 Responses to Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

  1. Andreas says:

    I seem to have liked this a bit better than you, maybe because of ms. snarkiness Desdemona. Here’s my take: https://reiszwolf.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/penrics-demon-•-2015-•-fantasy-novella-by-lois-mcmaster-bujold/

    I‘ve read one or two more in the series which were fun but also became a little bit formulaic and lost the freshness. I didn’t leave the series intentionally, though, and might as well grab it up again.

  2. cathepsut says:

    Still haven‘t started this series. My reading buddies are big fans. So many books, so little time…

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