This story is much lighter in tone than Penric’s Mission, with moments of unrestrained hilarity interlaced with sadness. Penric’s mission is a success, all the characters are safe; they found what they were looking for, or at least got as close as it was possible in the confines of their world, but the story doesn’t have a happily-ever-after I hoped for. The woman Penric fell in love with turned him down.
I thought about it. I like Penric and I wanted him to be happy, but I couldn’t blame the author for finishing her story this way. It was logical and couldn’t turn otherwise. Penric possesses a huge personality, plus his demon Desdemona with her dozen previous lives, plus Penric’s multi-faceted education. He is huge on the inside, a giant of culture and magic, a Renaissance man of his fantasy universe.
His love interest, Nikys, on the other hand, is a brave and kind woman, but she doesn’t seem to have a personality at all. No education. No goals of her own except a quiet and secure little life with a quiet and secure little husband in a quiet and secure little house. Penric couldn’t offer her that. His life is bound to be big and turbulent. He carries a demon of chaos inside himself after all. Of course, Nikys refused his proposal.
Penric’s partner should be either 100% dedicated to him, like so many wives of the geniuses of our world. Nikys clearly is not. Her first priority is her brother. Or Penric’s partner could be a personality in her own right – a talented artist or musician, maybe. Someone with goals and aspirations of her own. Someone who is unusual herself – because her talent drives her towards nonconformity and originality – so she wouldn’t be freaked out by the weirdness that surrounds Penric and his demon. Nikys doesn’t have a talent either. She is just an average, prosaic woman who sees that they don’t suit and acts accordingly. Still, it made me a bit sad.
Note to librarians: the BL database doesn't seem to have the cover for this book, so I pulled it here from GR.