January 16th, 2007

earthsea

January Books 9) The Sharing Knife: Beguilement

9) The Sharing Knife: Beguilement, by Lois McMaster Bujold (.co.uk, .com)

Like my wife, I am a complete and total Bujold fan. So a new Bujold novel is a Good Thing whether it be great or merely enjoyable. The Sharing Knife: Beguilement heads towards the "great" end of the spectrum, with a nice clash of cultures between settled "farmers", who are reminiscent of the frontier spirit of early nineteenth-century America, and the "Lakewalkers" who keep them safe from supernatural nasties, who combine aspects of native Americans - but on the same side as the farmers - and Tolkien's Rangers. Indeed I thought the geographical references were made pretty strong when we were told of the seven lakes of olden days which merged to form the huge Dead Lake of the story's setting (OK, so in our world there are only five), and the drowned city of Ogachi, five miles across (shift that last syllable to the front of the word, and add an extra consonant).

So, it's a compelling fantasy environment, there's a cross-cultural romance, there's a mystical Thing which has to be sorted out in the second volume (of, we are told, two). There's also pregnancy and miscarriage, which I don't often recall in sf or fantasy novels (the rather mystical interpretation in A Game of Thrones aside). I did like it, though the come-down from supernatural nasties of the early chapters to the bathos of aggrieved potential in-laws at the end was a little odd. Still, I have the sequel on pre-order from Amazon.