Carolyn Cushman Reviews Knife Children and The Orphans of Raspay by Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold, Knife Children (Spectrum Literary Agency) 2019. (Subterranean Press 978-1-59606-954-1, $25.00, 208pp, hc) February 2020. Cover by Ryan Pentacoast.

Bujold’s latest two novellas finally out in print both involve grown men taking care of girls, but otherwise the tales are quite different. Knife Children adds to the Sharing Knife series, picking up with Barr, a young scapegrace Lakewalker from the original series, now a 33-year-old patroller back from a stint helping fight malices in a distant, short-handed territory. He’s got a dark secret – as a teen he misused his powers to seduce a pretty young farmer girl, who got pregnant but wanted nothing to do with him. Since then, he’s been watching from a distance just in case his daughter develops Lakewalker powers. When he checks, though, he finds the farm burned and the girl a runaway, and he decides to fix things and quickly finds himself in over his head, dealing with a very determined young woman dealing as best she can with a new life, including a father who’s made a lot of mistakes in his time. They both make more mistakes until they figure out they need each other, but it’s fun watching them get there.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Orphans of Raspay (Spectrum Literary Agency) 2019; (Subterranean Press 978-1-59606-954-1, $25.00, 208pp, hc) June 2020. Cover by Lauren Saint-Onge.

Penric’s got a double problem in The Orphans of Raspay, the seventh novella in the Penric & Desdemona series. The temple scholar and sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are captured by pirates at sea, but fortunately Penric was travelling incognito, since sorcerers are considered bad luck on a ship. At least some of the pirates are Roknari, who would consider a Temple sorcerer an abomination worthy of torture and death. Penric’s pretty enough that they put him with the valuable prisoners, including two young girls, orphaned children of a prostitute, now trying to find their merchant father. They quickly adopt Penric, who finds his escape options considerably complicated by their company, but he can’t bring himself to abandon them. Overall, the story doesn’t add much to Penric’s story or the theology of the world of the Five Gods, but it’s a nice tale, with a good bit of adventure and some creative demon-engineered disasters for good fun.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the June 2020 issue of Locus.

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