Title: The Sharing Knife
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Scrinnameless, who I call “Scrin” for short, is a 22 year-old geology student who is curious about romance, and at my suggestion has taken to reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. Bujold! (snrk) We have an intermission and recap of the book.
I’m halfway through the book, so I’m finding it appropriate that I recapitulate my views on the book so far.
World-building: Given that this is a very small part of the world, seen from the eyes of two people (usually), what I’ve seen is pretty limited. Most of it’s actually been about the Lakewalkers. Of course, this is expected. The Lakewalkers are the source of ‘magic’ here, and any fantasy writer explains the magic somewhere (if a writer doesn’t do that, I think they have to remove the stars and crescent moon from their pointy hat or something). Anyway. The normal people are shown to be normal people—provincial and superstitious.
The Lakewalkers can be pretty bad themselves; They are dedicated to fighting unholy monsters which must be stopped or else a single one could ruin the world, but some of them can be lazy and they can freeload off the normal people by going “Hey, look, I just killed an abomination, just to keep you safe. Is a free room and some food too much to ask? And how about a new saddle? And maybe some beer. Get me some aromatic oil while you’re at it.” Still, their leaders have good heads on their shoulder. That’s why they’re the leaders, I guess.
As a side-note, the Lakewalkers are much more sexually open than the normal people are. I guess all that empathy and life-reading they have has something to do with it. Their view seems to be that sex happens and they can’t pretend it doesn’t, so it’s not anything to be ashamed of.
Characters: Hoo, boy. Don’t we have some here?
Fawn: Our female lead is quite naïve, I’m afraid. But I give her a break. She’s twenty and she lives in a culture where people don’t move around much. Part of her problem is she wants to be treated like an adult; this is hard for other people to do because she’s admittedly very short and she’s very inexperienced. She doesn’t realize how bright she is because she’s been told she’s stupid all her life. Still, Fawn’s childlike in the unquestioning trust she can put in Dag. I keep imagining brown eyes opening really wide as Dag explains the what’s-what of the world. In fact, she gets a little annoying with how innocent she is.
Dag: Dag’s the man. I’ve already mentioned how I feel about his style of speech. The dude’s easy-going, and, to his credit, he doesn’t lie to people. The main characters in a fantasy story must have the truth told to them at some point, but Dag tells ordinary people what’s really happening and why. They probably won’t understand it, or believe him even if they can intellectually acknowledge the meaning of what he’s saying, but he tells them all the same. I do dislike him nicknaming Fawn ‘Spark.’ It just seems a little too…I dunno. Like something you’d nickname a kid. Even moreso that he’s 20 years older than she is.
And for all of his impression of being an easy-going and supremely competent guy, Dag has issues that he deals with by insuring that they just don’t come up. He’s not really an emotional cripple, but he’s spent half his life assuming that he won’t ever fall in love again and trying not to think too hard about a very bad day he’d had in the past.
It just occurred to me. While Dag has an enormous amount of detail, Fawn is a blank slate. A very big blank slate meant to have a lot of things written on it. I sense a set-up here.
The Others: Side characters are mostly Lakewalkers. They seem to view Dag as a walking legend, to one degree or another. Some of them, though, know the man behind that legend and know that he’s still a very human one.
The Writing: I’m enjoying it, although the occasional turn of phrase puzzles me. Characters have their own individual voices for dialogue, which is always, always, a good thing.
The Story: The first five chapters? I had a blast. Some good fights, some good exposition on the world and what happens in it.
Then came the three chapters where Fawn and Dag were in proximity to each other and they built up an attraction. That was a little embarrassing to read, actually. It really showed me how naïve Fawn can be sometimes.
Well, maybe naïve isn’t the right word. She is an innocent, pregnancy notwithstanding. In a brief period of time, Dag puts out an incredible amount of effort and concern on her behalf, with a selflessness that she’d never seen before. Poor Dag is just doing what he’d do for anyone who ran into a malice, out of his own decency and compassion (he even buries some dead dogs in a shady place because he figured the dogs would like that). She doesn’t really get all swoony over him, but she trusts and respects him so much that she’s just happy to be around him and no matter the situation, she relaxes when he’s present.
After the enforced proximity, I got some more about Dag. This makes sense. Dag’s the one with the stories to tell. Having a vague idea of how this works, I figure the tension between Dag and Fawn is going to break soon.
I have noticed that each chapter seems to contain a single event of some kind. The book is pretty segmented in that way. It makes it easier to restrain myself to a chapter at a time, instead of my usual maniac read-read-READ approach. I know my test grades appreciate that (two this week).
So now I’m all primed and ready to read.