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.