Title: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement and Legacy (books 1&2)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Review Number: 8
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Stand alone or series: Series (First two books in a continuing series, next book out this spring!)
Summary: (from harpercollins.com)
Young Fawn Bluefield has fled her family’s farm hop-ing to find work in the city of Glassforge. Uncertain about her future and the troubles she carries, Fawn stops for a drink of water at a roadside inn, where she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers, enigmatic soldier-sorcerers from the woodland culture to the north. Fawn knows the stories about the Lake-walkers: they are necromancers; they practice black sorcery; they have no permanent homes and own only the clothes they wear and the weapons—mysterious knives made of human bone—they carry.
What she does not know is that the Lakewalkers, as a whole, are engaged in a perilous campaign against inhuman and immortal magical entities known as “malices,” creatures that suck the life out of all they encounter, and turn men and animals into their minions.
Dag is an older Lakewalker patroller who carries his past sorrows as heavily as his present respon–sibilities. When Fawn is kidnapped by the malice Dag’s patrol is tracking, Dag races to rescue her. But in the ensuing struggle, it is not Dag but Fawn who kills the creature—at dire cost—and an uncanny accident befalls Dag’s sharing knife, which unex–pectedly binds their two fates together.
And so now the misenchanted knife must be returned to the Lakewalkers. Together, Fawn and Dag set out on the long road back to his camp. But on the journey this unlikely pair will encounter danger and delight, prejudice and partnership, and maybe even love. . . .
Why did I read the book: Lois McMaster Bujold is a pretty reknowned author, and after seeing some mixed reviews on this new series, I had to see for myself.
I was a bit wary in picking up Beguilement, primarily because there were some less than favorable reviews floating out there in fantasyland. Many readers were disgruntled with Ms. Bujold’s turn away from strict fantasy to a more romantic, character driven type of story. Since I love a good romance with my fantasy or sf, I decided to give it a shot after warily eyeing the books in my local Borders for a few months.
The story opens with Fawn, a very young, naive girl walking to Glassforge to escape a family that loves but doesn’t listen to her, and bearing an unwanted child as a result of a stupid fling with a stupid farmboy (affectionately dubbed “Stupid Sunny”). Fawn encounters a farm to rest at, meanwhile patroller Lakewalkers arrive at the scene to rest momentarily from their pursuit of Mudmen and a Blight Boggle (aka Malice). Enter our other hero Dag–who only has one hand, the other an intimidating hook, and is much older than our heroine Fawn. Fawn hides in a tree, but Dag using his ‘groundsense‘ can feel her hiding in the tree above him. Eventually the Lakewalkers leave, and Fawn continues on her way, only to be scooped up and very nearly raped by a pair of Mudmen. She is rescued from this nasty fate by Dag…and here their adventure together begins.
First and foremost, this story really is a romance (so I do understand why certain fantasy readers might have been disappointed with the book). Fawn and Dag take on the Malice and defeat it in the first third of the first book–and from there, the rest of the story is focused on how the two of them learn to abandon the prejudices of their respective people, and fall head over heels in love. While most fantasy stories tend to focus on some looming showdown to be concluded in the last quarter of the book, I found it intriguing for Ms. Bujold to do away with the external threat, and focus on the characters instead. Intriguing and very rewarding. The relationship the author crafts between the young, inquisitive and wide-eyed farmer girl with the world-weary, much older Dag is realistic and touching. You can’t help but fall in love with both of the characters as they struggle with their own feelings for each other. Fawn has no special abilities, and is seen as inferior by many of the Lakewalkers, especially in the second book. As a heroine, she isn’t your typical kickass, smart-mouthed tough girl. But her innocence, as she is only 19 years old, is endearing and makes her more sympathetic as a female character in a situation that is much larger than she is. Dag is a hero to be loved and cherished–being significantly older than Fawn (I won’t spoil the actual age difference), and having been around the block before with a former wife, his rediscovery of feeling and true love is heartwrenching. All the assholes that try to keep them apart (be it Fawn’s family in book 1, or the stubborn Lakewalker society in book 2) made me want to tear out my hair and beat someone up–yes, you care about these characters THAT much.
So far as the fantasy goes, it’s solid, as always. Ms. Bujold is no newcomer to the genre and does a wonderful job with her world of Lakewalkers and Farmers, principles of magic, and the ever-present evil Malices. Everything feels real–which is no small feat for a fantasy author. What I was most impressed with is her attention to cultural differences and mistrust between the two classes of people.
After finishing Beguilement, I had to rush to the store to find a copy of Legacy. These books are wonderful, and nowhere near finished. I cannot wait for the next installment! Romance fans will love the humor and gradual love story that unfolds between Fawn and Dag, and fantasy fans will be pleased with Ms. Bujold’s continued high level of writing and fantasy world building. All around, a wonderful reading experience!
Notable Quotes/Parts: There is on section where the innocent Fawn grills Dag about sexual habits of Lakewalkers…while she is draped across his lap on horseback, and putting Dag in an…shall we say, uncomfortable position. Hi-larious!
Additional Thoughts: Seeing as Ana and I recently reviewed The Time Traveler’s Wife, these books made me consider again the importance of age difference in a romance story. While the sexual tension between a very young teenaged character and a nearly middle aged male in The Time Traveler’s Wife felt twisted and wrong, The Sharing Knife proves that the May-December romance can be sexy and touching if handled properly and with the right respect and delicacy.
Verdict: Wonderful romance, wonderful fantasy. I enjoyed it immensely!
Rating: 8 Excellent
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