Saturday, August 25, 2007

I finished reading... The Sharing Knife: Legacy

The Sharing Knife: Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold

Fawn Bluefield, the clever young farmer girl, and Dag Redwing Hickory, the seasoned Lakewalker soldier-sorcerer, have been married all of two hours when they depart her family's farm for Dag's home at Hickory Lake Camp. Having gained a hesitant acceptance from Fawn's family for their unlikely marriage, the couple hopes to find a similar reception among Dag's Lakewalker kin. But their arrival is met with prejudice and suspicion, setting many in the camp against them, including Dag's own mother and brother. A faction of Hickory Lake Camp, denying the literal bond between Dag and Fawn, woven in blood in the Lakewalker magical way, even goes so far as to threaten permanent exile for Dag.

Before their fate as a couple is decided, however, Dag is called away by an unexpected—and viciously magical—malice attack on a neighboring hinterland threatening Lakewalkers and farmers both. What his patrol discovers there will not only change Dag and his new bride, but will call into question the uneasy relationship between their peoples—and may even offer a glimmer of hope for a less divided future.
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors. I automatically buy her books in hardcover and she hasn't disappointed me yet. So it is with a certain amount of disbelief that I'm saying this about a Bujold book, that I admit that The Sharing Knife: Legacy did actually disappoint me in places. Parts of it were great, classic Bujold indeed, but other parts (and I really can't believe I"m saying this about a Bujold) were just plain boring.

This is technically the second half of the story begun in The Sharing Knife: Beguilement (so don't start with this one or you'll be jumping in at the middle of the story and be totally confused), and it begins where that book finished, finding Dag and Fawn on the road to Hickory Lake after their wedding in West Blue. The opening is delightful as they stop for the night and set out to "complete" their marriage when Dag has no useable hands and Fawn is still relatively inexperienced. This is delightfully written (without explicit details) as things don't progress without problems, but do reach a satisfactory conclusion for both.

Unfortunately, once the pair reach Hickory Lake Camp and are made much less than welcome, the pace slows and this is where the book gets boring. I'm not sure why and I'm not sure if the problem was the author or the the reader, but I didn't really enjoy the looking into Lakewalker life, Dag's family politics (or dysfunction, depending on how you want to look at it) or Fawn's attempts (and failure) to fit into this new culture. I was a little surprised, as often this can be a fascinating part of a book, but in this case I found myself struggling to keep going. In fact, I took a break and read The Duke and I instead.

Then, right about half way through, Dag gets called away to lead a patrol to deal with an unexpected and powerful malice. At this point the story picks up again. And the book morphs back into a strong, fascinating Bujold read. Dag finds a new and unexpected twist to the problem of the malice, Fawn pushes her way into where she isn't meant to be and thinks out of the box to solve the problem. Together they face down Dag's family and he comes up with a third solution to their problems, different from the two he was expected to chose between. The book ends satisfactorily, although clearly ready for book three (out next year and to be called The Sharing Knife: Passage) to begin.

So I find myself a little confused and conflicted about this book. It's rather like the little girl with the curl. When it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad it's not so much horrid as just plain boring. I don't know whether to recommend it or not. It's Bujold, so I was predisposed to like it. And the stuff I liked, I really liked. I'm already hanging out for the next book, as the set up (when it finally came) was fascinating. So I guess it's a qualified recommendation. Do read it. If you find the Hickory Lake part boring as I did, either skip it or stick with it, because it really does get better again.

The Sharing Knife: Legacy
Lois McMaster Bujold

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