Title: The Sharing Knife
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
A few weeks ago, Scrinnameless sent me word of a wonderful used bookstore in Mobile, Alabama.
Turns out Scrin is a dude – and he later wrote to me:
I think I’ve nerved myself enough to submit myself to the Will of the Bitchery. Who can suggest some good sf or fantasy romance to start me off on?
As for about myself… I’m a 22-year-old college student in Mobile, Alabama, pursuing a degree in geology. I play video games. I read, naturally, all over science fiction and fantasy, along with odds and ends here and there. I have a thing for snarky dialogue and commentary (which is how I found SBTB in the first place).
So, yes, O Masters of Romance, teach me!
Oh yeah, like I’m going to be able to resist bringing a 22 year old rock-student into the massive awesome that is romance.
I asked Scrin for more details about what he likes to read, and here was his reply:
Favorite authors: Terry Pratchett, Alan Dean Foster, Timothy Zahn, David Eddings, R.A. Salvatore, Lilian Jackson Braun, Anne George.
Titles I’ll hang onto forever: I will hurt someone over my Discworld books. But I also try to replace copies of the early Eddings when they start to wear out. Also, I intend to hang onto the Anne George Southern Sisters stuff. Oh, and my copies of Trigun (a manga, if you’re unfamiliar with it).
Why Geology: I was wiping out my core requirements to put off deciding what I wanted to do. Then I took Geology 111 (the basic course), and, well, the Uncyclopedia article on Geologists describes it pretty close.
My reply: “There are three words you need to know, and those words are “Lois McMaster Bujold.”
O RLY? replied Scrin. YES RLY, I said. A few days later, I heard back: “I Has a Bujold!”
First lesson, O Bitchery: never let a geologist near your map of the inside cover of your book. Herein is Scrin’s first account of his reading (there’s more, so hang on to your seats. And your rock hammers).
It might be unusual to start with a critique of the obligatory fantasy map inside the cover the cover, but I am a geology student. Landforms are interesting to me, and this might be good practice.
Right off the bat, I notice the Dead Lake at the north side of the map and the Limestone Country at the south. There are also several rivers, but they’re flowing south. Nothing wrong with that, except they’re all flowing down to drain the Limestone country (which tells me that this place used to be covered by the sea). A lake is pretty often a low point to the surrounding terrain, so it stands to reason that at least some of the rivers would be flowing down to it.
But wait, it’s the Dead Lake. Maybe it’s dry…Oh, wait. It’s right by what appears to be Bog-Ague Country. Sounds nasty. And boggy. And it’s right by the lake. It’s probably a gradual slope down to the lake, hovering right around the water table. So, nope, the lake doesn’t appear to be dry, and doesn’t have rivers flowing through it.
Huh. Maybe the land around there will be described at some point. I’ll reserve judgment on the map until then.
The scale of the map is measures out fifty miles, and isn’t far at all on the map. It seems the map is 17.6 cm, and fifty miles is 1.7…. Ah, heck, call it 500 miles from east to west. It’s a pretty fair piece of ground.
This should be fun, don’t you think? So behold, we commence: Scrin’s Read-a-log of The Sharing Knife: Beguilement:
I am starting the actual book. I grabbed it since it’s volume one, and I’d be sure of it not starting in the middle of something.
The main female seems to be a woman named Fawn. She’s a farmgirl who’s 20 years old and, she thinks to herself, a widow. She’s also short.
The female lead seems to be a rangery nomad-type named Dag. Actually, I like that name. Short, hard, and easy to say. Well-suited for shouting. I wish I could say I like the name ‘Fawn,’ but I grew up deer hunting. My ears hear ‘Fawn,’ and my brain substitutes ‘yearling.’ Anyway, they set up quite a bit in this chapter.
I just finished chapter one, and I know that Fawn’s had man trouble. I know the Lakewalkers are a nomadic rangery-type of people who dedicate themselves to fighting something called a malice. I get the strong impression that malices affect an entire area, and also creates subordinate creatures. They also seem to be connected to the blight, a condition which makes a sizeable area to the west uninhabitable. Anyway, Dag’s one of them, and is apparently an old hand at fighting these things…I apologize for the ‘hand’ pun. See, Dag’s missing his left hand. Gee, I wonder what did that…
My immediate guess about the Lakewalkers being a matriarchal culture was correct.
Anyway, not a bad beginning. It starts off with a mundane kind of abnormal situation, and then it moves quite smoothly into setting up the supernatural. I especially liked how the Lakewalkers have a kind of life-sense (as found out from a bit that’s written in Dag’s point of view) which let them know when living things are around and, apparently, if there’s a malice affecting the area. As extra senses go, it’s unusual. Much cooler than boring old telepathy.
Chapter 2 Preliminary
I’m going to try to avoid this, as a rule, but I’m going to record an impression immediately after I read what caused it.
It starts off from Dag’s point of view. His partner catches him as he slips. Dag rebukes him. The partner, Saun, defensively mentions he’s heard Dag’s overprotective of any woman he’s partnered with—not romantic partner, but an assigned partner. For this reason, women aren’t assigned to be his partner; possibly he worries about them so much he puts himself—and by extension them, too—in danger. Given the insight into his mind last chapter, I’d say he’s protective of women in general. He probably lost a partner; possibly at the same time he lost his hand. He may have even been romantically involved with her. Saun’s apparently new at this. He’s nervous. Dag isn’t sure how Saun’ll do.
Bet you a dollar that Saun dies from his own mistake.
Chapter 2 main
…Well, Saun doesn’t die. He does, however, make a dumb mistake and gets a hammer right in the chest. The only thing that stops him from dying is Dag. Ah. This buddy system makes a lot of sense now.
Anyway, Dag arrives in the nick of time to prevent Fawn from being raped. Also, he was not too late. This seems to be important. Anyway, the guy about to rape Fawn gets shot, quite factually, in the ass, and then the monster—which seems to be a corrupted man—get away, Dag figures he can track it. Except, whoops, turns out Mr. Rapist is unschooled in anatomy any more sophisticated than where Slot A is and how Tab B fits into it; presumably, he also knows where to hit someone so they’ll die. He pulls out the arrow, tears an artery, and bleeds to death before Dag can come patch him up and take him prisoner.
Also, turns out that Fawn has a very strong life-force. This seems to be what triggered her getting captured, and it’s also how Dag recognized her.
I feel this will be important later on.
Oh, bottomless joy! Stars and garters!
Remember how I said I liked Dag’s name? Turns out, the name is short and easy to shout by design.
“I have a tent name, a camp name, and a hinterland name, but Dag is easier to shout.” The smile glimmered by again. “Short is better in the field. Dag, duck! See? If it were any longer, it might be too late.”
First an author who knows something about fighting (the fight scenes earlier weren’t bad at all), and now, the Lakewalkers intentionally make their everyday names short and easy to shout as a survival aid? Hell yes.
Anyway, the plot thickens. Fawn’s pregnant, which is apparently the source of her man troubles. The father’s evidently a dullard. Dag says it’s a girl, and it happens to be why her life-force is so strong—so strong that it’s like a beacon to mud men.
Dag’s awesome. Fawn’s assessment of him is that he lives ‘inside his own head.’ And he totally he gives that impression. He says what he’s thinking at the moment, and can correct himself in mid-sentence as his brain catches up to his mouth. Dag’s speech patterns are also telegraphic, as if he cuts out excess words and goes right to what he wants to say, as he thinks it. My mental ear is imagining him having a pretty quick delivery when he’s speaking.
Anyway, at the end of the third chapter and this first part of a liveblog, Dag’s bone-tired and still out scouting because he’s got too much to do and Fawn’s about to be attacked by more mud-men.
On a more general level, I’m enjoying myself. The characters—the handful introduced so far—are pretty cool, and Dag surpasses cool and goes into awesome. The writing’s flowing pretty well, and doesn’t get in the way of what the author wants the reader to know.
Stay tuned for more of Scrin’s read-a-log, and feel free to make suggestions as to what he should read. I started with Bujold because it seems to me, from my romance-deep and fantasy-not-as-much reading history, that her writing would be one of the best bridges into RomanceLandia for a curious reader.
Another male curious about the romance? WIN!