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Monday, June 25, 2007

"The Sharing Knife" by Lois McMaster Bujold

Disclaimer: Image given permission by & copyrighted © Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell

Read An Excerpt from Volume One + Volume Two

Lois McMaster Bujold, a multiple award-winning (five Hugos, three Nebulas, three Locus Awards, etc.), New York Times Bestselling science fiction and fantasy author who has dazzled audiences with her popular Vorkosigan Saga series, the Chalion books, etc., is yet another prolific and highly respected writer that I’ve long known of, but not experienced until recently with Ms. Bujold’s latest release, The Sharing Knife. While portrayed as a duology that is broken up into two volumes, “Beguilement” (Volume One) and “Legacy” (Volume Two), The Sharing Knife is essentially a single story, and thus, I will be reviewing it as such.

Set in a recognizable western-flavored time period, The Sharing Knife takes place in a land divided into seven hinterlands, populated by simple farmers and mysterious Lakewalkers who are supposedly descended from a once great and powerful civilization, possessing remnants of that people’s knowledge & power, and dedicated to defending the land from the never-ending evil of the malices (or blight bogles according to the farmers). Because of the importance of the Lakewalkers’ bloodlines in continuing to defeat the malices, relations with farmers are basically forbidden, and as such, a widening bias has developed between the two peoples. Into this milieu, Ms. Bujold takes a universal story about star-crossed lovers from different worlds, and offers her own unique spin that is The Sharing Knife.

At one end of this unlikely romance is the young and naïve Fawn Bluefield, a farmer girl who has run away from home to escape the troubles of her past and hopefully start a new life. Dag Redwing Hickory meanwhile, is a weathered Lakewalker patroller who clings to the past and commits himself fully to the dangerous task of hunting malices. Through a set of dire circumstances the two meet, become inextricably linked through sorcerous means, and inevitably fall in love. From there, readers will get to see the lovers’ relationship develop and become challenged by such obstacles as the acceptance of Fawn’s farmer family and Dag’s Lakewalker one. Additionally, the two will also have to deal with a malice more powerful than any before seen, as well as frightening new magics. And by the end of the book, readers should discover the answer to The Sharing Knife’s greatest mystery – “Will Fawn & Dag’s love survive?

Before starting The Sharing Knife I was warned by some readers that the duology was a ‘romantic fantasy’ aimed more towards the female audience, so I had some reservations I must admit. After completing both volumes of The Sharing Knife, I discovered those worries to be mostly unfounded. True, the central story in The Sharing Knife revolves mainly around the romance between Fawn & Dag, and yes, female readers might appreciate this aspect of the book more than their male counterparts, but personally, I believe the duology can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter their gender or age…to a certain extent. For one, the main characters are brilliantly rendered, coming off as both believable & appealing, and the electricity between the two felt real, while the secondary players were also well-developed. Secondly, all of the romantic parts in the book were tastefully done, neither too oblique nor too explicit, and surprisingly possessed a lot of down-to-earth humor that I really appreciated. What I liked most about Fawn & Dag’s relationship though, were the challenges they had to face because of their different backgrounds, which is something my wife and I have had to endure in ours, and something I really connected with in the book.

For the fantasy lover, The Sharing Knife may not be big on epic worldbuilding – developing history, religion or more specifically explaining the origin of malices or the Lakewalker’s abilities, which are only explored through speculations. Fortunately, what fantasy can be found in The Sharing Knife is intimately detailed and wonderful to envision like the concept of groundsense, the purpose and making of sharing knives, how a Lakewalker’s community or family functions, the horror of malices and so forth. As a whole the fantastical elements in The Sharing Knife were well conceived and executed by Ms. Bujold, and while I wish there had been more of it, plus more action in general, I understand that the focus of the book was on the romance between Fawn & Dag, and that the presence of Lakewalkers, malices, ground, etc., helped to transform a typical love story into something much more interesting.

For my first foray into a Lois McMaster Bujold novel, I was quite impressed with The Sharing Knife from the authentic characterization and richly imagined world of Lakewalkers & malices to Fawn & Dag’s powerful love story and the actual writing, which was beautiful & elegant, and had its own kind of magic. In simpler terms, I really enjoyed reading The Sharing Knife and while I obviously don’t know how it stacks up to Ms. Bujold’s other novels, you can bet that reading those books has now become a priority of mine. Regarding The Sharing Knife, if you’re a dedicated Lois McMaster Bujold fan or think the duology might be something worth checking out, then I recommend reading the two volumes back-to-back, which I believe makes for a much more fulfilling reading experience…

6 comments:

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

Susan E. said...

Great to see someone start their reading with this, rather than the Vorkosigan stories. Should make your future fun with Miles and company even better! I can't recommend this author highly enough, and reading a review from someone who hasn't been following Miles for years was a real treat. Enjoy--I envy you the experience of catching up with the rest by this fine, fun, thoughtful author.

Susan E. said...

What a treat to read a review by someone who doesn't know Miles Vorkosigan's universe inside out. Thanks for the fine review. I envy you your experience in reading the rest of the work by this fun, thoughtful, truly expert writer. Can't recommend her work, especially The Curse of Chalion, highly enough.

Robert said...

Susan, thanks for the comments! I definitely look forward to checking out Ms. Bujold's other books, and since I'm a bigger fan of fantasy than I am science fiction, I might read the Chalion books before starting on the massive Vorkosigan Saga :D

Anonymous said...

It's months since your thoughtful review: have you read The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt yet? Of the three, I much favor the first two (and I can't choose which is my favorite story; either is while I'm reading it).

I'm posting because I just read your review of Passage, which I haven't read yet (it's not out until next week). How much other Bujold have you read?

Robert said...

The Sharing Knife novels are actually the only books that I've read by Ms. Bujold. I actually discovered that I have a copy of The Curse of Chalion, but I don't remember reading it. Anyway, just from what I've read so far, Lois is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and I definitely plan on checking out the rest of her stuff...

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