The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Considering that I didn’t read this series continuously (one of quirks…I have to take serial editions), I still managed to finish all four books fairly quickly…less than a month I believe. The story is really good. I don’t often read fantasy books because, like sci-fi, a lot of the concepts go over my head when I want a quick read. In “The Sharing Knife” series, Bujold does a great job of explaining the new concepts and doing it in a way that is both understandable and entertaining.
“The Sharing Knife” saga is set in a world where farmers and Lakewalkers co-exist with little to no understanding of each other. Lakewalkers are a haughty breed of beings who pride themselves on finding monsters known as malices and killing them with Sharing knives. These knives are made from thighbones of their deceased and primed with the blood of a dying Lakewalker who makes their life sacrifice into the knife for use in killing the malices. When not called as a patroller, a Lakewalker may also be called as a maker or a healer, and all Lakewalkers work with groundsense, an aura like part of anything that only they can see.
Farmers fall into the category of anyone who isn’t a Lakewalker, and the prejudices between the two are many. Lakewalkers see Farmers as ignorant and useless, while Farmers have the notion that Lakewalkers are graverobbers and death-eaters.
“Beguiliment (Book1) begins with Fawn Bluefield, a young Farmer girl, running away from home after a local boy gets her pregnant then refuses to take responsibility. On the way, she is saved by Dag, a Lakewalker patrolling the area for malices. They are thrown together even further when the malice “ground-rips” her unborn child. In the process, Fawn somehow primes a Sharing Knife in a way not done before in Lakewalker culture. The two fall in love, and the book ends with a visit to Fawn’s family and their marriage, both traditional and string bound as the Lakewalkers do.
“ Legacy “ (Book 2) sends them to Dag’s Lakewalker camp to introduce his new bride and reassure them that he’s okay (having got separated from the rest of the patrollers in the first book). The marriage is frowned upon by the haughty camp with the exception of a few Lakewalkers who offer Fawn their hospitality and friendship. When Dag goes on patrol again to help hunt down a particularly nasty malice, he is pulled into a groundlock after trying to save others who’ve already been locked by the malice. Fawn goes to him against other Lakewalker wishes and saves him before he and the others who’ve been locked are made sacrifices to unprimed Sharing Knives. This leg of the journey and part of the story ends with the camp divided on whether to allow Dag and Fawn to stay or to banish them from camp. Taking matters into his own hands, Dag voluntarily leaves, hoping that by traveling and seeing more of the world he can find a way to bring Farmers and Lakewalkers together to both understand each other better and to have a better chance at fighting malices.
“ Passage ” (Book 3) takes Dag and Fawn on a river trip where Dag is given the chance to experiment with the new healer and maker powers he’s been exhibiting and to talk to others, generally Farmers, on the ways of Lakewalkers, hoping to give them a better understanding of the culture and of malices. Bujold introduces several new and enjoyable characters in this book (there were several introduced in the second book as well, but I didn’t find them very enjoyable), including Remo and Barr, two young patrollers who leave their camp after breaking a Sharing Knife; Boss Berry, the boat captain they ride aboard with who has gone in search of her father and her fiancé; Whit, Fawn’s brother who realizes that his home holds no future for him and so sets out with his sister and her husband to see what the world has to offer; and a group of minor characters including a renegade Lakewalker (not so minor in the plot, but only in the book for a short time).
“Horizon” (Book 4) brings Dag and Fawn and their group at several crossroads. Fawn looks for a teacher so that Dag can learn how to do “ground work” (healing), his ultimate goal being able to offer services to Farmers and teach other Lakewalker healers to do the same. At a new camp, Dag goes under the tutelage of Arkady, an older healer with many of the same skills Dag has found himself with on the journey. On a trip back north with a mixed party, they come across a strange and advanced malice, and it’s Fawn and her brother who prove that Farmers are just as capable at malice slaying.
This summary only scratches the surface of what this whole story offers and how the characters develop. Bujold writes intricately without hanging out the “I’m writing intricately” sign. This is my first venture into this author’s work, and I would definitely like to read more of her in the near future.
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