A Penric and Desdemona fantasy novella.

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Publication year: 2020

Publisher: Spectrum Literary Agency

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 126

Penric is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife, newborn daughter, and mother-in-law. Penric’s demon Desdemona and his wife have managed to settle into an amicable relationship. Des is a 200-year-old chaos demon inhabiting Pen, so not every woman could have done it.

Then Pen’s wife’s brother, General Arisaydia asks for Pen’s help. A mysterious disease has attacked his men, a bruising fever. Pen agrees to look things over but is promptly lured into trying to cure it and find out where it came from. Because he doesn’t know how it spreads, he can’t return home or he could accidentally infect his family. Des can’t just cure the sick; she can only assist their own healing and that takes days or weeks. Pen desperately wants to cure everyone but one sorcerer isn’t nearly enough, especially when there are sick people not just in the military fort but in surrounding towns.

Pen is a scholar delighting in reading, translation, and writing. While he can use his demon to speed healing, he isn’t a healer or a physician, not anymore. This story reminds us why. Because only the most difficult cases are brought to him and he will break himself trying to help them. So, this story had definitely a darker side. Fortunately, it also has others, especially after the halfway point. I very much enjoyed the character introduced later in the story but won’t spoil them.

Des doesn’t get a chance to snark much, this time. Two of her previous hosts were healers so she knows all too well how spirit-breaking the work can be. Also, some people are too scared of Pen to let him try to help while others expect him to wave a hand and cure everyone. When he can’t do that, these people blame him. So, the tone isn’t as cozy and cheerful as in some of the others.

Still, a good read, but probably not the best place to start the Pen&Des series.