This was written by Lois McMaster Bujold. To a great extent, this is all you need to know.
Penric and Desdemona are back – Penric is thirty now, and has been dispatched on a secret mission by the Duke of Adria. If everything went right, it wouldn’t be much of a story – and things go wrong almost immediately. But how? And why?
In this story, we get more information about how demon magic works, the advantages, the perils and the pitfalls, and a few tantalising hints about what Penric and Desdemona have been doing in the years since Penric and the Shaman. But really, as with all of Bujold’s work, the characters make the story – they leap off the page (not literally: even Amazon hasn’t managed that yet) and present themselves, three-dimensional and real.
The feeling I get from the Penric books is always a rather gentle amusement – I think this is greatly due to the relationship between Penric and Desdemona: somewhere between best friends, older sister/younger brother, and conjoined twins. The strong bond between them is the foundation for all of the novellas, and one has the feeling that if that endures – and it will – then they will get through anything. Together. Until finally, Desdemona has to go on alone – but only when she must.
These novellas don’t put you through the emotional wringer, but they do provide an escape into an ever-more-detailed world with fascinating, complex characters.
The ending is rather sudden – however, I rather liked it. But I hope we will have another novella; although I’m perfectly capable of making up my own after I would prefer to read Bujold’s.
And, reading this one, I realised that Desdemona sounds a lot like Lois McMaster Bujold herself. 🙂