Written by American writer Lois McMaster Bujold (The Vorkosigan Saga), World of the Five Gods is a fantasy series, previously named the Chalion series. As the series expanded, the title was changed. It is a series of shared universe stories, with a sub-series titled Penric and Desdemona.
The World of the Five Gods series explores an alternate reality on a world analogous to Earth, influenced by conflicts between the old shamanic religion, the new dominant Quintarian religion, and the heretical Quadrene faith. The stories share a world and theology, rather than related characters.
How to read the World of the Five Gods Series in Order?
Reading the World of the Five Gods Books in Publication Order:
- The Curse of Chalion – A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions. But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion…
- Paladin of Souls – Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family’s castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets — for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road — escape — beckons. . . . A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of all Chalion. Yet something else is free, too — something beyond deadly. To the north lies the vital border fortress of Porifors. Memories linger there as well, of wars and invasions and the mighty Golden General of Jokona. And someone, something, watches from across that border…
- The Hallowed Hunt – The half-mad Prince Boleso has been slain by a noblewoman he had intended to defile — and Lord Ingrey kin Wilfcliff must transport the body to its burial place and the accused killer, the Lady Ijada, to judgment. With the death of the old Hallow King imminent and the crown in play, the road they must travel together is a dangerous one. And though he is duty-bound to deliver his prisoner to an almost certain death, Ijada may be the only one Ingrey dares trust. For a monstrous malevolence holds the haunted lord in its sway — and a great and terrible destiny has been bestowed upon him by the gods, the damned, and the dead.
World of the Five Gods: Penric & Desdemona
- Penric’s Demon – On his way to his betrothal, young Lord Penric comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady on the ground, her maidservant and guardsmen distraught. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine, servant to the five gods of this world. Her avowed god is The Bastard, “master of all disasters out of season”, and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric’s life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
- Penric and the Shaman – Penric is a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a “Locator” of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric’s roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.
- Penric’s Mission – In his thirtieth year, Penric fell in love with light… Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on his first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems: Penric is betrayed and thrown into a dungeon, and worse follows for the general and his kin.
- Penric’s Fox – Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons.
- Mira’s Last Dance – The injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas. In the town of Sosie the fugitive party encounters unexpected delays, and even more unexpected opportunities and hazards, as the courtesan Mira of Adria, one of the ten dead women whose imprints make up the personality of the chaos demon Desdemona, comes to the fore with her own special expertise.
- The Prisoner of Limnos – Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.
- The Orphans of Raspay – When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.
- The Physicians of Vilnoc – When a mysterious plague breaks out in the army fort guarding Vilnoc, the port capital of the duchy of Orbas, Temple sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are called upon by General Arisaydia to resurrect Penric’s medical skills and solve its lethal riddle. In the grueling days that follow, Pen will find that even his magic is not enough to meet the challenges without help from dedicated new colleagues-and the god of mischance.
- Masquerade in Lodi – Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi — but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god.
- The Assassins of Thasalon – An unholy attack upon his brother-in-law General Arisaydia pitches sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona headlong into the snake-pit of Cedonian imperial politics. But they will not travel alone. The mission from his god brings Penric some of his strangest new allies yet, and the return of some of his most valued old ones.
- Knot of Shadows – When a corpse is found floating face-down in Vilnoc harbor that is not quite as dead as it seems, Temple sorcerer Penric and his chaos demon Desdemona are drawn into the uncanny investigation. Pen’s keen questions will take him across the city of Vilnoc, and into far more profound mysteries, as his search for truths interlaces with tragedy.
Reading the World of the Five Gods Books in Chronological Order:
Following is the internal chronology of the World of the Five Gods:
- The Hallowed Hunt
- Penric’s Demon – Collected in Penric’s Progress.
- Penric and the Shaman – Collected in Penric’s Progress.
- Penric’s Fox – Collected in Penric’s Progress.
- Masquerade in Lodi – Collected in Penric’s Labors.
- Penric’s Mission – Collected in Penric’s Travels.
- Mira’s Last Dance – Collected in Penric’s Travels.
- The Prisoner of Limnos – Collected in Penric’s Travels.
- The Orphans of Raspay – Collected in Penric’s Labors.
- The Physicians of Vilnoc – Collected in Penric’s Labors.
- The Assassins of Thasalon
- Knot of Shadows
- The Curse of Chalion
- Paladin of Souls
If you like the World of the Five Gods reading order, you may also want to take a look at our guide to the Realm of Elderlings, or the Riyria series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.