I am certainly glad that I waited to read The Sharing Knife series until four books were published. This sequel to Beguilement picks up immediately where the first one ended, and while Bujold does her usual swift and skillful job of catching readers up and refreshing their memories, the story gets going right away.
This reads like the second half of the first book, so it is very important to read the books in order. Not that you couldn't figure out what's going on by starting with the second book - but you'd miss out on so much of the fun. Inevitable spoilers may follow, so be forewarned.
Fawn and Dag, a farmer and a Lakewalker, are from two different worlds, yet they have spurned tradition and managed to find a way to get married following both Lakewalker and Farmer customs. Dag has, against all odds, manged to bring Fawn's farmer family around to accepting, even liking, him. But now he and Fawn are traveling to Dag's Lakewalker camp, where Fawn will be introduced as Dag's farmer wife. Fawn soon realizes that her family was an easy nut to crack compared with Dag's furious, spiteful mother and surly brother. Her arrival sets the camp in an upheaval that she could not have foreseen, and in the midst of Fawn and Dag's personal problems comes a Malice attack that is more damaging than anyone has seen in years. Dag, still a respected and effective Lakewalker patroller despite his negligence in falling in love with a farmer girl, is sent to deal with the Malice outbreak. Fawn is left behind, on her own among people who are unsympathetic and unwelcoming.
I enjoyed this installment in the Sharing Knife series very much. While the first book took a close look at Fawn's cultural background and lifestyle as well as the relationship that develops between her and Dag, this one examines Dag's background and the Lakewalker culture and traditions. We see why these traditions are so very important - they keep people alive in a land beset by horrific creatures that literally suck the life force from everything around them. We also see why the very traditions that have helped farmers and Lakewalkers to survive in a hostile land are beginning to threaten their survival. Dag and Fawn have gained a new perspective on things, but that perspective isn't well received by farmers or Lakewalkers, and they have a sizable challenge ahead of them, a challenge that will no doubt be explored in the follow-up to this book.
There's a lot to love here - complex, likable characters, fascinating fantasy elements, skillful pacing and a story that is intelligent and compelling. Anyone who has read Bujold's books won't be at all surprised by these elements, of course. I've come to expect them any time I open one of her novels, and because of it she is one of those authors, along with others like Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, and Charles de Lint, whose books I turn to over and over again. I look forward to reading (listening to, actually - Bernadette Dunne does a fantastic job narrating the audio version) the other books in this riveting series.
Books in The Sharing Knife series:
Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold; narrated by Bernadette Dunne (Blackstone Audio, 2007)
Also reviewed at:
Blog from the Windowsill: "Sweet and dryly funny and scary and sad and ultimately hopeful. And full of interesting possibilities still to be explored."
Fyrefly's Book Blog: " If you like original, well-built fantasy with great characters and a
solid dose of romance, you should definitely pick up this series."