For some time now, I've had Lois McMaster Bujold's latest series, The Sharing Knife idling on my bookshelves, waiting for just the right moment to enjoy them. Last month, I read Beguilement, and mentally kicked myself for delaying so long. So yesterday's reading choice was Legacy.
Recommend this product?
First off, just let me say Wheew!
In this second volume of The Sharing Knife the story of Dag and Fawn picks right up where it was left off in Beguilement. Having convinced Fawn's family that he's quite sincere in marrying Fawn, the just-married couple are heading off to break the news to Dag's Lakewalker family. Fawn is confident that all will go well, but Dag knows better, for both he and Fawn come from very different worlds.
Fawn comes from the farmer culture, where life is plenty of hard work with their hands and minds. Life might look simple, and it tends to be on the hardscrabble side of things to modern eyes, but it's also a necessary one.
Dag is a Lakewalker, a group of nomadic peoples near the edges of the Dead Lake, who have an innate ability to detect 'ground' -- a force that inhabits everything -- and use it to bind spells and hunt down what are known as 'malices.' A Malice is a fearsome creature, able to enslave humans and transform animals into terrible beings; worst still it brings about blight and sucks away lives. The only way to take out a Malice is by using a sharing knife -- an object that only Lakewalkers create and use.
That is, until Fawn used one, and created quite a fuss. And the fuss really begins to intensify once they ride into Hickory Lake camp. It's an act that bound Dag and her together, and sparked quite a romance between them. But as the readers discover quickly, the Lakewalkers view Fawn with as much hostility and suspicion as her family did Dag. And it quickly gets worse when Dag is called away to lead a mission where malice-magic takes on a new and terrible form, leaving Fawn to fed for herself in a hostile world...
Goodness, this was a real thriller of a book! Once again Lois McMaster Bujold turns an adept hand at creating a world that is very much like our own, but also startling different as well. While she does slip into a bit of explainitis here and there with the Lakewalker's daily life, she fortunately leavens that with plenty of emotional interaction not just between Dag and Fawn, but also between everyone else as well. Indeed, I found the ones between Dag and his family chilling at times -- Cumbria, his mother, and his brother, Dar, are two of the most arrogant and selfish people that I've ever encountered in fiction.
Happily, however, I did find the details of life among the Lakewalkers to have some humour as well. Bujold has a lovely touch with descriptions, and is smart enough to work them into the conversations between characters. But she is also good with working subtle hints into the story -- I loved her descriptions of the plunkins, a staple foodstuff, and how the Lakewalkers lived from day to day.
Another good touch was the use of 'ground' and how it affects people, and how the Lakewalkers use it. While a lot of Beguilement was busy introducing this world, and the characters of Dag and Fawn, here there is a wider look at the lives, and a great deal of background and lives of the people. And it works.
But at the heart of any good story, it's the plot that matters, and here Bujold doesn't let the reader down either. The events at Greenspring are downright horrifying to read about, and the tension gets wound up to high levels. I found myself staying up until the small hours reading, as I had to find out what happens next. The pacing here is very quick, but not at a breakneck pace either, as there are times when the reader gets a chance to catch their breath. Too, Bujold doesn't let Fawn get turned into a doormat either, as is the fate of most women who marry in fantasy novels, and despite her youth, has the gumption to stand up to others; she makes a nice balance to Dag's world-weariness and heartache. As for Dag, I must say, that he makes one of the sexiest heroes in fantasy fiction, and no, it's not because of the way he looks either. He's got strength and brains, something that is all too lacking in most fantasy fiction, along with some character flaws. A caveat however, the sexual scenes in here sizzle quite a bit, so keep this one for your older teenagers; while Bujold isn't overly graphic, she's not shy either.
This one satisfies on many levels. The characters of Dag and Fawn are people who I want to know more about, the dangers real, and true imagination at the core of these novels. So far there has been three of them published, and a fourth one is due for release in January 2009. Happily recommended, and with a five star recommendation.
The Sharing Knife series:
Legacy -- you are here
The Sharing Knife: Legacy
Lois McMaster Bujold
2007; Eos, HarperCollins Publishing