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REVIEW: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold

Dear Ms. Bujold:

The Sharing Knife: BeguilementThere has always been a low grade chatter at romance websites and listservs about how awesome the Miles Vorkosigan/Naismith series is. But there are alot of books in that series and if you read my series post, you would know I have a little issue with commitment.

A number of the ladies on the RRA-listserv commented on how romantic this book was and despite the hardcover factor, I really wanted to give you a try. I am so glad I did. What I found under the beautiful cover was a very romantic story complete with an ending that would satisfy even the most diehard romance fans. This is part one of a duology but I didn’t really feel bereft at the end. It came to a natural conclusion but left me wanting for more.

A young woman named Fawn sets off to journey to Glassforge for a job. She stops at a farm to buy some bread and encounters a Lakewalker patrol. Lakewalkers are an itinerant group of people who patrol the land for “malices or blight bogles.” Malices are creatures that grow stronger by killing people and then eating them and absorbing everything about that person: life, methods, and knowledge.

The Lakewalkers have a “groundsense” that distinguishes them from farmers such as Fawn and her family. This ground sense allows the Lakewalkers a mystical way of perceiving the energy or emotions of another person. Dag, an old patroller who has been on the run from his emotions since the death of a beloved, senses Fawn’s bright ground immediately.

Dag and Fawn are thrown together in a battle against Malice and while emerge victorious, it is not without cost. For each Malice’s death is bought with the death of a Lakewalker. This was an important point because magic in a story without checks creates no conflict. I.e., if one can continually create magic to save themselves, then there is no possibility any big, bad could create danger for the protagonists. The conflict that weighs over the entire story is whether the sharing knives will be primed by the death of Dag or Fawn.

The setup of the world is unique and quite intricate. The characters even speak with a certain cadence that seemed unique to the world. Dag refers to himself commonly as “old patroller” and speaks with a certain pattern distinct from Fawn. Fawn is a curious creature and remains true to her nature throughout the story. She is portrayed as often questionning, particularly when separated from her repressive family who love her but fail to see her value.

Dag and Fawn’s connection is frowned on by farmers and Lakewalkers alike, each faction predicting heartbreak for the other. Much of the story is about Dag and Fawn beguiling each other and Dag’s attempts to beguile Fawn’s family into accepting him – which were incredibly sweet. There is a significant age difference between Fawn and Dag, but I really didn’t mind as Lakewalkers are very long lived compared to farmers.

My one quibble is that I found the concept of the sharing knife to be a bit incomplete and the nature or genesis of the Malices difficult to understand. Perhaps all will be explained in the second of the duology.

If I had one word to describe the story, I would use “lovely.” It was a lovely, charming story that ran the gamut from sadness to bliss. This is a story I would think that readers who enjoyed Maria Snyder, Sharon Shinn, or Elizabeth Vaughan would like this one. This book has a little less action than the Snyder books, but a similar fantasy feel with a strong overlay of romance. I can’t wait for the July 2007 conclusion to the duology. That seems a long way off. B+.

Best regards,

Jane

A Note: For readers, there is an extensive excerpt for Beguilement at HarperCollins website.

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

13 Comments

  1. jmc
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 09:02:15

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Beguilement! While Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion remains my favorite of her books, this one is excellent. Bujold almost always has a small romantic thread in her books, but the overlay (great word) is larger here.

  2. Phyl
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 09:06:35

    I’m halfway through this one and highly resent the fact I have to spend the day working instead of finishing it. Ms. Bujold is a talented world-builder and she’s proven it again. I think your review is spot-on; the comparison to Maria Snyder and the others is apt. I’m reading a library copy, but undoubtedly I’ll buy a copy when it’s released in paperback.

  3. Rosario
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:05:59

    Well, I trusted you about Shinn’s Samaria novels and found the best books I’ve read this year, so I’d say it’s a no brainer that I should be reading this ASAP :-D

  4. kardis
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:22:39

    And here I’d been wondering what would be the perfect thing to redeem my Borders reward on… Thanks Jane!

  5. Keishon
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:40:59

    I’m planning to read this one next. I even went a step further and got the first Miles book out of my many boxes. I plan to read the series. And yes, there are so many of them.

  6. Jorrie Spencer
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 11:25:23

    I really liked this one, too! Bujold has a fantastic way of making her worlds complex and original and accessible—not always easy. And I always enjoy her characters and her romances.

  7. Jane
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 12:31:59

    I am going to have to give her Miles series a try now. I think I have Cordelia’s Honor.

    Ro, I hope you like it but I know that we have greatly differing opinions on several books while also having greatly mirroring opinions. I can’t figure it out, really. LOL.

  8. Karen W.
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 22:30:58

    I enjoyed this one a lot too and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

  9. readerdiane
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 11:23:42

    I too want to thank you for comparing the book to authors I like. I like the if you like… then you will like the writing of….
    I have read several of the earlier books, but then the series got away from me. I think I still have some of them, maybe its time to dust them off and try again.
    I have ordered this book and hope to enjoy it over the holidays.

  10. Jane
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 16:54:31

    readerdiane – that’s a good point. I will try to incorporate this into more books.

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