by Lois McMaster Bujold
Cover Artist: Lauren St. Onge
Review by Gayle Surrette
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596067691
Date: 31 May 2016 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Lord Penric is on his way to solidify his match with the daughter of a wealthy cheese merchant. He's the only living spare and it is up to him to raise the family's financial situation by marriage. Luckily or unluckily, depending on your point of view, Pen stops to help when he sees an elderly woman in distress on the side of the road. He offers to help and learns that the woman is Divine Ruchia and notices that she's a servant of the Bastard, the fifth god. Nevertheless, he speaks with the divine and offers his service. As quickly as that, his life changes, and nothing will ever be the same.
The party escorting, Divine Ruchia, now has a dilemma. They're paid to escort the divine but, she's dead. However, Pen now encompasses her demon. The obvious solution is to take Lord Penric to the head of the Bastard's Order in Martensbridge and leave it up to them to decide what to do with him.
Lord Penric is a good man -- young, inexperienced, well intentioned, and not trained as a servant of any god. He tries to find out what having a demon inside him will mean to him. No one seems willing to discuss this issue with him or, if they do listen, they don't give any substantive information. Penric, left to his own devices, goes to the source and from there acts according to his own values.
Penric with a demon is not someone the church leaders would ever expect and certainly never wanted.
Lord Penric, Pen to his friends, and Penric to others, is a fabulous character. He's got a serious problem that he's never been trained to handle, so he's doing the best he can. This ruffles the feathers, or exasperates the other characters that he comes in contact with throughout the story. There's tension, danger, humor, and some interesting insights into various human traits.
Definitely, a book you'll want to have to go with the other novels set in this universe. However, you might also just want to read a really good story about how one man manages to face the challenges in his life on his own terms.