Book Review

Scrinnameless and The Sharing Knife: The Finale!

Title: The Sharing Knife
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold

Book CoverScrinnameless, who I call “Scrin” for short, is a 22 year-old geology student who is reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. Bujold! (no, that is not going to get old any time soon) He finished the book!

Chapter 11

        So everyone’s warned Dag and Fawn away from each other. Apparently, Dag’s superior is afraid that if he opens himself up, he’ll take in love like a starving and thirsty man would take in food and water—and try to go too far, too fast.

        Still, I know they’ll end up together, even if it’s only for a little while. The real interest I have in this relationship is seeing what comes next.

        And…Yep, it comes to a head. There’s a party (which Lakewalkers like to do quite a bit) and as the festivities wane down, Dag and Fawn go off to go get busy.

        I suppose I should say that I found the love scene to be tastefully written and didn’t make my face burst into flame.

Chapter 12: The Morning after.

        Okay, I laughed. The next morning, Dag and Fawn entertain each other some more. Now this is a nice silly section. Dag’s got a big grin on his face, and people are staring.  Then this bit of self-admonition from Dag pops up:

        “A responsible, mature, respectable patroller should not walk about grinning and glowing like some dementedly carved pumpkin. It was like to frighten the horses.”

        And there’s also a mention as how a lot of the patrollers didn’t sleep and they drank too much, and an unexpected act of mercy by their patrol leader had them set out at noon instead of the crack of dawn, her being notorious for taking no small amount of pleasure from watching a bunch of hungover, sleep-deprived men and women try to go in the same direction at once.

        Anyway, I’m having a blast with this chapter. Dag’s ridiculously smitten, and Bujold is throwing joke after joke. I am, however, getting some inklings of trouble in the future. I suppose having the last half of the book be all wisecracks and silliness would get kind of old after a while.

Chapter 13

        This is interesting. Dag’s heavily incapacitated, so Fawn’s caring for him now. It feels a little contrived, though, like Mrs. Bujold is consciously trying to even the score. There’s some more about Fawn’s home life…I don’t envy the woman, put it that way.

Chapter 14

        Dearie, dearie me. I understand and accept that other people often don’t know what Dag’s thinking, but I don’t know what Dag’s thinking after reading this chapter. I thought he understood how to deal with people.

Chapter 15

        This chapter shows Fawn’s family at a not very admirable time. I really don’t have much to say, except they seem to pull through—eventually. Dag, though, does something spectacular.

Chapter 16

        Now this is a very sweet chapter. I mean, a real warm-fuzzy feeling generated from multiple deeds. This chapter really shows Fawn’s Aunt Nattie (a pretty awesome character). It also settles things up.

Chapter 17

        This is a pretty fun chapter; Fawn puts that brain of hers to some good use and makes a very intelligent connection based on the information he’d told her. Dag also seems to have found out some very interesting facts about himself. I’ll probably be reading the rest of the books in the series.

Chapter 18

      Damn, Fawn has some shitty brothers. These guys are downright malevolent. Dag has the self-control of a saint for not beating two of them bloody. I know I would have, were I in his situation. No wonder the woman can’t wait to leave her family.

Chapter 19

        End! Well, it certainly gives a good happily-ever-after. There’s two more books in the Sharing Knife (that I’m aware of, anyway), so I assume things are going to have their ups and downs. Maybe it’s more of a Happily-until-the-next-book.

Verdict: I enjoyed this book. Quite a lot. The initial fantasy world-building got my interest as a reader of that particular genre, and apart from a small intermediate period of unbelievable awkwardness, I enjoyed the characters and the writing.

        That brings up a point. The actual story itself didn’t grab me too hard, but the characters and the turn of phrase took me by the shoulders and said, “ACKNOWLEDGE THE AWESOME!” And I willingly do so. This was a fun read, and I’d recommend it. Despite the geomorphology-inaccurate map at the beginning of the book.

Thank you, Scrin! I fully acknowledge the awesome. So, what should he read next? Part II of The Sharing Knife, or something else? Any ideas?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    ghn says:

    There are actually _three_ more books in the series, not two. And excellent books they are, too!

    Happy reading :-D

  2. 2
    FrancisT says:

    Scrin should for sure read the next sharing knife book. He could pause after that (but he’ll probably be hooked and unable to :) ) however the first two books are really one book in most respects and indeed “Happily-until-the-next-book ” means about half an hour.

    Though I don’t think I’m spoiling things to say that they remain happy for a while yet in the next book before bad things (TM) start to happen.

  3. 3
    aninsomniac says:

    Three more books! That are written! And I will always hold the belief that she’ll keep writing more in this world. The second book is a lot more circumstantial, I think. It develops the book’s world, the society, the side characters, the plot, etc. It is much more eventful, in any case. No more romance building, per se, although there are some very sweet scenes.


  4. 4
    Estara says:

    He definitely should first read the other three books in the series, so he’s well caught. And after that maybe A Civil Campain, so he gets some Bujold scifi romance? Or some Linnea Sinclair, but that might be too romancy? Hmm…

    Whatever, he should keep writing in and I’ll be happy to read any views he has.

    Whatever happened to Lord of Scoundrels and the Maths Doctor?

  5. 5
    mirain says:

    FrancisT, I’m just glad to hear that things actually DO happen. I love Bujold’s writing, but really wanted more action than the first two Sharing Knife books offered. I loved the warp-speed pace of the Miles books.

  6. 6
    Scrin says:

    I have to say, I’m impressed with Bujold.

    I mean, I’m a very easy-going guy, but Bujold managed to make me angry at two characters to the point of wanting to commit physical violence.

    I’ve always been of the opinion that any writer who can decide how they want you to feel and then make you feel that way, is a damn good writer.

  7. 7
    Suze says:


    Yep.  That’s the appropriate response to Bujold.  (And a phrase that I’m going to be appropriating, thank you!)  Me, when I start one of her series, I go through and read the whole thing before I’m done.  Mmmmm.  Bujold.

  8. 8
    LMB says:

    I’ve been enjoying these posts, naturally.  It’s not often that a writer gets to “see” her books being read, as a reading is likely the world’s most private art form.  (Well, beta readers supply something like it, I suppose, but that’s another focus.)  Anyway, I appreciate the rare privilege.

    Scrin should go on immediately to Legacy, as the pair are two halves of one book.  As we tried to indicate with the cover art, but it’s been daunting to me how many folks, including bookstore staff, failed to notice that the two covers were two halves of one composition.  Chapter 1 of Legacy was originally labeled Chapter 20, and actually holds that place in the overall structure.  It’s still Chapter 20 in my heart.

    The map may make more sense when he gets to the larger one in _Passage_.  Since the morphology of the landscape was pretty much taken wholesale from a real maps (if simplified), it can’t be too wrong.  Although I’m a minimalist with fantasy world maps; just the places mentioned get on, to avoid clutter.  Unlike a story set in our world, if you want to see a map for orientation you can’t go look it up on Google, so I do think fantasy maps are justified.

    My own rec (after Legacy, naturally) for a skiffy reader looking to go on to the hard stuff would be Jennifer Cruisie.  She worked for me, anyway.  Faking It is my very favorite, for multiple reasons.

    bests, Lois.

  9. 9
    Scrin says:

    Next time I go to the library, ma’am.

    Seeing as how I’m an impecunious college student, I can’t buy your books right now. However, as soon as I become slightly pecunious, I’ll hit up the bookstore and make room on my shelf.

  10. 10
    SonomaLass says:

    I found that I could not stop after The Sharing Knife and was glad I didn’t have to.  LMB is absolutely right that the first chapter if Legacy felt like chapter 20.  I didn’t mind waiting for the third and fourth books a little,  but the first two were very much one story for me.

    LOL @ “going on to the hard stuff.”  Great way to describe it!  I’m always amazed when readers of SF/F don’t recognize how much romance there is in our genre—fantasy readers, especially, are conditioned for romance.

  11. 11
    Lori says:

    I’m doing the geek happy dance.  Lois McMaster Bujold and I have the same favorite Cruisie novel.  This made my day.

  12. 12
    Lovecow2000 says:

    If Scrin wants to continue within the fantasy/scifi setting, I’d recommend Kim Harrison. I think he’ll enjoy the action and the world building. 

    Also, I must gush… LMB posted!  Wow!  In case she checks this thread…. I loved these books.  I even bought the 4th in hardcover.  Thank you for writing them.

  13. 13
    Liz L says:

    Here’s something worth mulling over when it comes to crossover readers:

    I love this essay (by Ms. Bujold) because it makes me look twice at what I take for granted.  I always rushed through woman-authored sci-fi and fantasy looking for juicy bits and happy endings, which eventually brought me to romance as well.  So it’s a bit of a head twister to remember that not everyone likes juicy bits, and what looks juicy to me is just silly to others.

  14. 14
    willaful says:

    It took me years—decades!—to be able to enjoy juicy bits.

  15. 15
    Eirin says:


    That’s all.

    *Mops up after self*

  16. 16
    DS says:

    I’ve been listening to The Sharing Knife 3.  I listened to 1 and then somehow missed 2—I’ll back up and listen to that one later.  However I was pleased at being able to listen to the sex scenes without wincing.

  17. 17
    Rosa says:

    Mirain, it’s never quite up to the pace of the Miles books (and I like that – I like the world a lot, and it’s clearly a “slow boat down the Missippi” world, not a 5-space wormhold blast one.)

    I really need all y’all to finish through book 4 so I have someone to talk to about it who won’t whine about all the family and relationship stuff and the number of weddings.

    (I would offer my paperbacks of 1-3 to Scrinnameless but I’ve already pushed them on a local friend – I replaced them all w/hardbacks.)

  18. 18
    Erin says:

    LMB, I noticed the covers. I thought they were very clever.

    My recommendations for the next book would be Sharon Shinn, Mystic and Rider, or Anne Bishop, Black Jewels or Sebastian.

  19. 19
    aninsomniac says:

    Oooh, I would love to see a man read Black Jewels and get his opinion about it.


  20. 20
    Micah says:

    I’m a man, and I’ve read the Black Jewels trilogy. My girlfriend got me to read them last year, so while they aren’t super-fresh in my mind, here are some of my thoughts on the series.

    It’s a painful series for men to read in a lot of ways. The focus on men as pleasure slaves and the genitals as the instrument of torture is just not a pleasant thing to think about. Thankfully, I have a terrible time visualizing things I read – another friend of mine, who doesn’t, actually had to put the books down a couple of times (like the scene where the guy gets castrated by crabs).

    The world-building was both interesting and haphazard. The whole society was a fascinating construct, between the ideal partnership between the sexes and the warped power dynamic Dorothea and her like have created. However, the construction left me flat at times – there were definitely moments involving the jewels, the kingdoms, the interaction between them, the levels of death, the other races, etc. where I just felt like the author had failed to get the details across to me accurately. It felt like I was reading a series in which I was supposed to be more of an insider than I actually was, and I had to ask my girlfriend to explain some stuff to me. While it’s certainly the case that every fantasy series has to work the readers into the world gradually, some do this better than others, and I wouldn’t give Black Jewels particularly high marks in this department. To return to the actual subject of this post for a moment, the Sharing Knife series (which I love – Ms. Bujold, you’re a fantastic writer and I own most of your collection) does a much better job of this.

    Likewise, the characters were hit and miss. I liked Saetan a lot, especially with his “oh god, NOW what has she done” parent-like attitude towards Jaenelle’s shenanigans. He did, however, have the really frustrating ‘honor before intelligence’ thing going on, though I suppose given That Incident With The Island there was a pretty good reason to keep himself on a short leash. Between his sons, I liked Lucivar more – Daemon felt a bit too much ‘look at the tortured sexy person, isn’t he hot’ at times. I get why he might appeal to many female readers, but I felt like Lucivar had the more interesting character. I also liked the short story involving Lucivar’s romance a lot more, as a relationship-building exercise, than Daemon/Jaenelle. Part of this had to do with the fact that fate seemed like a big component of the latter relationship, and fated love drives me up the wall, and part of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t find either of them particularly interesting as characters. Jaenelle had the problem of being, well, a walking piece of destiny who always felt like a Deus Ex Machina waiting to be unleashed.

    The villains were great, in the sense that I really just wanted them to have long, drawn-out torturous death scenes. Dorothea in particular was just an unholy evil bitch who deserved far more than she ever got. What a foul human being. Bishop really knows how to make you hate.

    I thought it was a very interesting choice to set up the power dynamic the way that she did – in that the ‘good guys’ vastly outclass the ‘bad guys’ (and have a living god on their side). It was a fun inversion of the classic dynamic in which the villains have all the power and the good guys win the day against great odds, but it’s a lot harder to pull off, and pretty much made the whole ‘all the good guys must either act like idiots or be horribly tortured all the time’ situation a necessity for the continuation of the series.

    Overall, I think it was a good series and had a lot of cool ideas. But it didn’t grab me the way many books do – I could put the book down and come back to it later without spending all my time plotting how to get back to reading (which is how I tell I’m really hooked). And I think it’s simply going to be less enjoyable for men than women in general, just because of the “rings of cock torture” thing. Because, well, OW.

  21. 21
    Micah says:

    As a follow-up, in regards to ‘what to read next’ – I would definitely read more Bujold, including the rest of this series. The Miles books are much less focused on romance, though there is some good stuff in there eventually – but they are an excellent read. Miles operates under the principle of “if I just keep making shit up faster, the consequences will never catch up with me” – he’s sort of like a midget Ferris Bueller, in space, with his own personal mercenary fleet.

    Sharon Shinn is a good choice if you want fantasy that focuses mainly on the relationships (with no explicit sex), though I will warn you that Mystic and Rider takes a while to get going and is probably the weakest entry in the series. It’s a fun series, though, and it’s nice to see her develop the same character set over a five-book series (though it’s really a four-book series with the fifth being a bit of a spinoff using a supporting character from late in the series).

    If you’re into SF, Catherine Asaro does an interesting mix of hard-SF and romance (though her sex scenes are more explicit than Bujold or Shinn). She has a sprawling space-empire epic (the Skolian Empire series) as well as some stuff that deals with the implications of human/android romance (The Phoenix Code, Alpha).

    Finally, if you want to dive right off the deep end and join me in the land of Guys Reading Pure Romance, pick up some Loretta Chase. She does witty banter. Brilliantly. Oh, witty banter, you are my great weakness.

  22. 22
    Eirin says:

    The slower pace is exactly why I enjoy the Sharing Knife series. As opposed to, say, the Vorkosigan series, although I’m a fan of that one too. However, sometimes a laid-back pace gives you more time to explore the characters, which in this case is an excellent thing because no one does character-building and development like Bujold.

    For further reading I’d suggest Elizabeth Bear’s Blood and Iron, followed by Whiskey and Water. Not that they bear (ha!) any particular resemblance to the Sharing Knife (being more of an urban fairytale),  but Bear’s characters are equally alive and real, if somewhat more spiky.

  23. 23
    DrDave says:

    The map looks less “geomorphology-inaccurate” when you discover that it’s essentially North America between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes.  Tripoint is Pittsburgh; the Grace is the Ohio, Dead Lake is Lake Erie, etc.  Not the *real* ones—it’s not one of those—but closely modeled on the real ones, for verisimilitude.

  24. 24
    DrDave says:

    I forgot to add my $.02 on “if you liked these…”

    My personal favorite SF romance is the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  They share with Bujold the ability to write really good dialogue, which is important to me.  I’m also a sucker for a Mannered Society.  I’d recommend starting with Conflict of Honors, and moving on to the 4-book story that begins with Agent of Change if you like that one.  Then there are prequels, and pre-prequels, and some recent new books…

    …and, of course, there’s more Bujold.  I personally prefer her “Five Gods” series to her other works (much as I love the other works too), and they have more than a touch of genre romance in them.  For the Romancy parts of the Vorkosigan series (and the best writing), start late in the series with Komarr.  You can always go back and read the adventures of Miles as prequels if you want to.

  25. 25
    LMB says:

    Oh, and may I just add, before this post recedes into the mists of time, that was a good catch of Scrinless about Dag being ADHD.  Not too many readers have spotted that one, buried between the lines and the pre-industrial vocabulary as it is.  The condition was, one gathers, worse in Dag’s youth, and gradually and imperceptibly outgrown, so that only those who knew him back then still react to a stimulus that’s no longer there.

    Ta, L.

  26. 26
    Maggie says:

    who read romance?
    and might therefore not run away from girls who read the same?

    where do THEY hang out!?!?

  27. 27
    Sarah says:

    Um, I might get slaughtered for this, but I confess that the Sharing Knife series is actually my least favorite Bujold series. If you like fantasy, start with Chalion – it’s amazing, and really made me think a lot about the nature of religion. I can only pray that she finishes the last two. Also, I am a die-hard Vorkosigan fan – very few authors could develop that massive a cast of characters and make me love pretty much ALL of them.
    As far as other authors go, I recommend Emma Bull and Garth Nix (Abhorsen) – and, if you really want truly amazing characters, Megan Whalen Turner. No sex (this was more geared towards young adults) but truly mind-blowing characters.

  28. 28
    DrDave says:


    No slaughter from this fan—I mostly agree.  I do think that the early Vorkosigan books aren’t so hot, but the later ones more than make up for it, and the Five Gods books (especially the first 2) are pure desert island classics.  As much as I enjoyed The Sharing Knife, I’d have preferred more of Cazaril and Ista and Ingrey and their quirky gods.

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