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REVIEW: The Sharing Knife: Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

Dear Ms. Bujold:

Thank you for sending us your book for review. I have been a late adopter of the Bjuold universe, but I am becoming an ardent collector. My first book that I had read of yours was the first in this series: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. We are on book 3 of this series featuring Dag, a Lakewalker and Fawn, a farmer’s daughter.

I spoke with Robin last night about the difficulty I was having in writing this review. I wanted to be careful how I presented because I don’t think any review can really do justice to the totality of the experience of reading one of your books. What I mean by that is that one 500 word blog post would struggle to capture your voice and your skill.

Dag and Fawn were married in Book 2. Their marriage presented a problem, both with the farmers and with the Lakewalkers. The treatment of the Lakewalker/Farmer marriage is much like the treatment of those who engaged in miscegenation.

Their two cultures have always viewed each other with distrust and suspicion. The two cultures could not be more different. Lakewalker are more nomadic and farmers are obviously tied to their land. Lakewalkers were rumored to be cannibals. Farmers were thought of as too simple and not having any magic. All these opinions arose from scattered knowledge incorrectly disseminated throughout the land. Rather than reaching out to one another, the two groups have held themselves apart and thus the differences became embedded in both cultures and it seem no bridge could be built to cross the chasm.

When Dag and Fawn come together, they must win over farmers and Lakewalkers alike. It’s not been a successful task. Dag has been nearly exiled from his Lakewalker clan. He goes forth then, with Fawn at his side, to attempt to bring Lakewalkers and farmers together to fight the common enemy – the Malice. Malice are creatures born of the mud and of death. They present a harm to both the farmers and Lakewalkers but so far, only Lakewalkers know how to kill a Malice.

Lakewalkers sacrifice two individuals to kill a Malice. One individual dies and wills a thigh bone to the knife maker. The knife is then created but unprimed. Another Lakewalker must press the knife into his or her heart to prime the knife, thus the term “Sharing Knife.”

Dag is not of golden tongue and expressing the danger to farmers is difficult for him. Fawn’s brother, a childhood nemesis, presents himself as an eager student. Not because he’s particularly excited about fighting Malices but because he wants to experience adventure and Dag is the most likely vehicle for this.

These stories talk about bias and prejudice and how much of that comes from ignorance and lack of communication. Dag’s mission to educate farmers about Lakewalkers and about the Malice is one designed to strip away the mystique surrounding his culture in order to bring unity. He believes a great Malice is building and that without a unified land, the Malice will prevail.

I actually think that anyone could pick up Book 3 and not be lost. You did a great job of explaining the Sharing Knife concept and the Malice early on without appearing to be dumping too much information. Of course, the setup – Dag telling farmers about the Lakewalkers, gives the perfect venue for providing such background information.

If I had complaints it would be limited to a couple of things. First, this book is almost too leisurely at times and even the drama (usually sick people) was subdued. Second, Dag’s evolution from patroller to medicine man was suprising. Usually I’ve found most events to be foreshadowed and this one seemed to come of nowhere.

Overall, though, I wish that more people were reading you because of the nuanced writing; the discreet but important social commentary; and the delicacy of your voice. B.

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Robin
    May 01, 2008 @ 11:49:17

    Now, see, that wasn’t so hard, was it? ;)

    As we were discussing last night, one of the challenges in talking about these books is that Bujold has woven everything together so tightly, that it’s difficult to pull just one thing out to talk about, whether it be a passage to quote or an element of the story. Of course that’s a testament to Bujold’s strong world building, her ability to create a vivid and believable alternate reality, but it presents unique challenges to the reviewer.

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  2. Nikki
    May 01, 2008 @ 13:45:18

    I continue to love love love love (wait was that too many loves) LMJ. I really enjoyed passage as well because it was a different view of the same world. I will mention that there were some hints as to Dag as medicine man in Book 2 when they were with his family as well as how he took care of Fawn in book 1. If I can find the specific section I will bring it up. :)

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  3. Gail S
    May 01, 2008 @ 14:26:06

    I’m not sure at all, though, what this third book is about. This review confused me. And I read the first two books. What is different about this third book? What happens in it? Um–okay, they go back and talk to Fawn’s brother, apparently. (Doesn’t she have several?) And Dag heals somebody. Is that all?

    Oh well, no matter. I am a total LMB fanatic and will get the book because it’s by her.

    Hmm-regarding the Chalion series–wasn’t she going to write a book for each one of the 5 gods in that pantheon? She’s done the daughter, and the bastard, and the son–has she done either one of the parents? Will she? Does anybody know??

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  4. Throwmearope
    May 01, 2008 @ 14:27:19

    Jane,

    We have very different tastes in books, but I can see how Passage might be a B for you. It’s more SF/F than romance, while the first 2 books were more on the romance side (if you get what I mean). But Dag is not becoming a medicine man, he’s becoming a maker–something entirely new in his own world. At least that’s my interpretation.

    I loved this book (enough to forgive LMB for marrying off Miles and deserting him).

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  5. kyahgirl
    May 01, 2008 @ 15:00:00

    I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for the review.

    Dag and Fawn were my favorite couple in the AAR reader poll last year. Usually that big of an age difference would kind of gross me out but LMB manages to make these two into a believable and lovely couple!

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  6. jmc
    May 01, 2008 @ 15:03:30

    Gail S:

    From an interview of LMB found here at the Science Fiction Fantasy Chronicles forums:

    So if I ever do get a chance to complete the Chalion books, it'll be 5 volumes. Caz belonged to the Daughter of Spring, and Ista to the Bastard. Bully-boy Ingrey and his spirit wolf (from The Hallowed Hunt) were definitely the pets of the Son of Autumn. I still have the Father of Winter (god of justice) and Mother of Summer (goddess of, among other things, medicine), and I have beginning notions for both books, but I haven't had time for them yet. I don't know if I'll still have the same notions if and when I do. The Father's book would be next in my queue if I didn't have other obligations.

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  7. GrowlyCub
    May 01, 2008 @ 15:23:28

    There’s a new Miles book in the queue, Throwmearope.

    Interesting that you found it more fantasy than romance. I thought it was all about Fawn and Dag’s relationship and his relationship with his own folk and the farmers.

    I feel it’s a quest book. Dag’s trying to figure out exactly how to go about accomplishing it (communication between farmers and lakewalkers so they might successfully defeat the malices and understand each other’s culture better).

    I can’t wait for Horizon to see where she takes it all.

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  8. Lois McMaster Bujold
    May 01, 2008 @ 15:45:01

    Hi Jane –

    I’m glad you enjoyed Passage! Regarding the Romance/F&SF divide, I have some more thoughts that may be of interest to your readers in this interview (scroll down):

    http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2008/04/sharing-knife-passage-by-lois-mcmaster.html

    and also (some overlap) in this blog post:

    http://outofthiseos.typepad.com/blog/2008/05/guest-blogger-l.html

    (Apologies if I have posted this twice — the Reply I tried earlier seemed to disappear into the e-ther, and has not reappeared yet, but upon reflection I realize it may simply have gone into a queue to wait for approval. In which case, delete this duplicate.)

    best regards, Lois.

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  9. Helen Burgess
    May 01, 2008 @ 15:49:17

    Before visiting this site and reading a review of Cordelia’s Honour, I had never read LMB, now I am well and truly hooked. I cannot understand why it took me so long to try her books! The only problem is can I wait for the paperback of the above or give in and get the hardback.

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  10. Jane
    May 01, 2008 @ 21:11:05

    Thanks for the links Ms. Bujold. I found your essay very interesting and thought provoking. I thought this particular statement was so illluminating:

    I have come to believe that if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, F&SF are fantasies of political agency.

    I also thought that the construction you gave romance was wonderful. I hope more romance readers take the opportunity look at your essays and the thoughts you have about romance v. fantasy/science fiction.

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  11. Lois McMaster Bujold – The Sharing Knife: Passage « Fyrefly's Book Blog
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 23:39:13

    [...] Reviews: Dear Author, Fantasy Book Critic Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add [...]

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