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Book Note: Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Beguilement

I read this book about 14-Oct-2006. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2006. This note was last modified Sunday, 15-Oct-2006 20:44:57 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


First in a new fantasy series. Well, actually first half, they cut the novel in half and the cover painting in half, but actually paid Lois extra. (Probably the artist too, but I don't have any actual information there.)

It could almost be another of those disguised SF fantasies; the setting could possibly be post-collapse of a technical civilization. It's certainly post-collapse. The "malices" look magical to me, as does the way they're dispatched, though.

The Lakewalkers patrol, looking for malices (a magical creature, not a bad thought in a human's head) and destroying them before they become too powerful. A malice can enslave things, and make creatures into bad fakes of men, and draws the life force (called "ground" for some appalling reason; Lois doesn't usually have a tin ear, but that grated through the whole book) from everything around it so that it can take hundreds of years to recover after the malice is killed.

And malices are killed through something that I would have to call black magic. It requires human bones, and a knife primed by taking a human life (normally voluntary; perhaps it even must be voluntary). Still, there is no slightest question that malices are just misunderstood.

This one's another romance; a farmer girl and a Lakewalker man older than her father get thrown together on the road, and fall in love. It's a very well done romance, you understand, and that's by no means the entire plot. There's a modest amount of sex, rather more explicit than I'm used to from Lois, and much less perverse (rather tender and quite satisfactory, in fact). Apart from an early loutish boyfriend and an attempted rape, no really negative sexuality in this book. Shooting the rapist in the ass was probably a lot of fun, either for Dag doing it or Lois writing it.

In fact the girl Fawn is actually the one who kills the malice. The malice makes the mistake of ignoring her, and Dag is able to throw her the special knives, and she gets the right one into the malice in time. Just barely; she's still got the scabs on the bruises on her throat at the end of the book.

By the end they've gotten married farmer-style, and are setting out for the Lakewalker's camp. In fact they included a Lakewalker string-binding ceremony in the farmer marriage, and even managed to do the right magic, despite Fawn being unable to sense "grounds". Her aunt can, but so far there's no sign that Fawn is going to turn out to have the right magic to just fit into the Lakewalker community. I expect the next book, which will presumably include when they get to the camp, is going to deal with a fair amount of upset there.

It's interesting that the jacket mentions "unconventional religion"; so far as I can tell, there is no religion in this book. There's a vague legend that the gods went away, and will come back when the last malice (or blight bogle) is killed.

I'm certainly looking forward to the next book. I like both characters, and their relationship, and the Lakewalker culture. The Farmer culture isn't wonderfully to my taste but makes a fair amount of sense and fits together with the rest. Dag is showing some signs of being a super-powered magic user, which has been overdone, but nothing unforgivable has happened yet.

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David Dyer-Bennet