Friday, March 3, 2017

Mira's Last Dance, by Lois McMaster Bujold

★★★★☆ Funny, Tense, and Scandalous

(High Fantasy; Five Gods) Gravely injured, out of money, and pursued by the imperial government, Penric needs to get himself and his two companions out of the country, despite them being so recognizable. (28,183 words; Time: 1h:33m)

Although this story works well enough on its own, readers should start with Penric's Demon.

"Mira's Last Dance," by , published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2017.294 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Penric gets them out safely, but although his physical heart heals, his metaphorical heart is broken. His disguise as Mira amused Nikys, but him giving oral sex to a general for money was too much for her.

Nikys also got what she was after, in that Orbas does seem to be a place she can live and be safe. But the love she had for Penric in chapter one appears to be all-but-extinguished. Not just because of what he did for the general, but because it didn't faze him. "Well, that was an experience." Perhaps if he'd been upset and needed comforting she'd have been okay with it, but the way he just shrugged it off showed her she didn't really understand Penric at all.

Because of the sneaking around in disguise, this story has a lot of tension in it, and the successful escape is very satisfying. The relationship is not resolved, as we know by Penric's choice to write a letter rather than just setting sail. In a way, that's satisfying as well, because we know there will be more to come.

The Romeo-and-Juliet-like scene is an amusing bit of symbolism, since Penric and Nikys are also a star-crossed couple.

Mira's instructions to Penric, her teasing of him, and even her exasperation are very entertaining.

Con: For some reason, the relationship between Penric and Nikys doesn't generate any emotional response. We don't feel devastated when Nikys withdraws from him. Her affection for him seems real at the start of the story, but somehow it just fades away, and his interest in her never feels more than lukewarm.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the rating and the comments. It is indeed funny, tense and scandalous.

    Regarding the "sex", I believe Penric used his hands. Just re-read the bit about Penric washing his hands before and after.

    I carefully avoided this quite lengthy review until after I finished reading. I think the review is too detailed and gives too much of the story away, in my opinion.

    If the Penric - Nikys relationship had been more developed, I suspect you would be complaining of the "romance" in it. The trio were too busy trying to avoid capture, and with her brother present nearly all of the time, it was difficult, so what was there was fine with me.

    1. I don't think I complain about romance. I'm just not sure how to evaluate it. In this story, for some reason, I never felt they were that into each other. Contrast the recent Harry and Marlowe story when I felt it very powerfully based on just a few paragraphs of suggestion by the author.

      The upside-down reviews are really meant to be read after you've read the story. I've wondered a few times whether we ought to have space for a larger non-spoiler review in some cases, but it's hard to write very much that's truly spoiler-free.

      As for the sex, I'm pretty sure Bujold deliberately left it up to our imaginations. :-)

    2. I finally got around to reading the Harry and Marlowe story. The differences, imo, is that Penric and Nikys only just meet. For Penric it was under professional circumstances and for Nikys it was when her brother was at risk to dying. Then it was all go in an effort to survive and make it out of the country.

      Harry and Marlowe have known each other for some time, and have had a chance to develop their relationship in-between the adventures. This is an established relationship.

      Some writers don't write romance but the relationships are still believable. Other writers do write romantic moments and write it into their genre works quite well. Both ways work for me.