Masquerade in Lodi

Lois McMaster Bujold. Subterranean, $40 (176p) ISBN 978-1-64524-047-1

Bujold’s enjoyable ninth Penric & Desdemona novella (after The Physicians of Vilnoc) takes readers back to an earlier time in temple sorcerer Penric’s life, presenting a 29-year-old Penric and Desdemona, the demon who shares his body, with a mystery on the eve of the Bastard’s Day celebrations in the island city of Lodi. Penric’s superior, the Archdivine of the Bastard’s Order, sends him to a hospice to check on an unidentified man fished from the sea and afflicted with some form of madness. Penric and Desdemona immediately discern that a demon resides within the man but, unlike Desdemona, this demon is untamed and insane. Before Penric can take appropriate action, the man and his demon escape into the city. Penric and Desdemona must partner with Blessed Chio, an 18-year-old orphan-turned-saint, to track him down through the carnival atmosphere of Lodi before his demon can harm anyone. Along the way, they aim to discover the man’s identity and how he wound up in the sea. The mystery unfolds neatly, and by pairing Penric with Chio, Bujold has a window to explore the theology of her World of Five Gods. Bujold continues to add depth to Penric’s and Desdemona’s characters and detail to their world, even while keeping both accessible. The result will delight fans and new readers alike. (Dec.)