The Sharing Knife Vol.2: Legacy, by Lois McMaster Bujold

>> Friday, October 26, 2007

TITLE: The Sharing Knife Vol.2: Legacy
AUTHOR: Lois McMaster Bujold

PAGES: 377

SETTING: Lakewalker territory, mostly (i.e. made-up place!)
TYPE: Fantasy romance
SERIES: Comes after The Sharing Knife Vol. 1: Beguilement, and it's not so much a sequel, as the second half of a long book. I would definitely recommend reading Vol. 1 before you even think of picking up this one. In fact, better don't even read the summary below before reading Beguilement, because it will spoil it for you. Just go read the review of the first book, if you want to know if this whole story is for you.

REASON FOR READING: I loved Beguilement and I wanted to know how things turned out.

Fawn Bluefield, the clever young farmer girl, and Dag Redwing Hickory, the seasoned Lakewalker soldier-sorcerer, have been married all of two hours when they depart her family's farm for Dag's home at Hickory Lake Camp. Having gained a hesitant acceptance from Fawn's family for their unlikely marriage, the couple hopes to find a similar reception among Dag's Lakewalker kin. But their arrival is met with prejudice and suspicion, setting many in the camp against them, including Dag's own mother and brother. A faction of Hickory Lake Camp, denying the literal bond between Dag and Fawn, woven in blood in the Lakewalker magical way, even goes so far as to threaten permanent exile for Dag.

Before their fate as a couple is decided, however, Dag is called away by an unexpected-and viciously magical-malice attack on a neighboring hinterland threatening Lakewalkers and farmers both. What his patrol discovers there will not only change Dag and his new bride, but will call into question the uneasy relationship between their peoples-and may even offer a glimmer of hope for a less divided future.

Filled with heroic deeds, wondrous magic, and rich, all-too-human characters, The Sharing Knife: Legacy is at once a gripping adventure and a poignant romance from one of the most imaginative and thoughtful writers in fantasy today.
THE PLOT: In Beguilement, Fawn and Dag met when they had a terrifying encounter with a malice, which led to something unprecedented happening with a sharing knife. Since what happened clearly gave Fawn some rights over that sharing knife, it was considered (mostly by Dag, really) that she should go with him to consult a Lakewalker maker about what it all meant. In the time they spent together they fell in love, in spite of the high odds against them, and managed to get past Fawn's farmer family's objections.

Legacy covers the second half of their journey. It starts as they leave farmer territory, right after their wedding, and head into the Lakewalkers' land. And if you thought Fawn's family were hard cases about their relationship, you'll now realize that they were positively mellow compared to the Lakewalkers!

MY THOUGHTS: This is a book that almost fell through the cracks in my reviewing... I read it not long after it came out, in July, but then completely forgot to post about it. Well, the good thing about having this happen is that it gives me a good indication that it was a great book: it's now been over three months and I remember it perfectly!

In a sense, this second half feels a bit better integrated than the first one. In Beguilement, the two battles taking place (that against the malices and Fawn and Dag's struggle for acceptance of their relationship) seemed to be pretty independent. We had the first confrontation and the unique activation of the sharing knife, but then the whole malices thing faded into the background, with the focus moving wholly onto Fawn and Dag slowly falling in love and then having to convince the people around them that they were right for each other.

This last theme continues in the first part of Legacy, mixed up with a whole lot of fascinating Lakewalker politics and power-struggles, but then the malices plot pops up again and the two separate threads mix in a most satisfying way, one feeding the other. What finally happened with that sharing knife was perfect.

And both threads were just as good. I talked about what made Fawn and Dag such great characters in the first book, and expounded at length about why I thought they were so perfect for each other. That's still the case here, and this made the romance truly top-notch.

As for the world-building, with the malices and the Lakewalkers and their mission, and the tension between them and the farmers... in one word: fantastic! We learn quite a lot more here, including some clues on where the malices might come from, and some indications that this might be some kind of post-apocalyptic world (or was that just me getting strange ideas?), and it's all absorbing and fresh. The very idea of the malices is worth the price of admission, as it's quite brilliant.

All this said, I enjoyed this second half of the story a little bit less than the first. I think the reason is that I was left with a hopeful feeling after Beguilement, but not so much after Legacy. Don't get me wrong, I'd definitely call the ending a HEA, but while I felt the farmers might get over their prejudices in time (in a looooong time), too many Lakewalkers were unpleasantly blinded by them and would be always unable to accept Dag's choices. My grumpy "why the hell would he want to live with these people?" question was answered wonderfully in the great ending, but I couldn't help but be a bit sad.

MY GRADE: A B+. There will apparently be more books in this series, and I'm looking forward to them.


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