The Sharing Knife is a series of four books by Lois McMaster Bujold, which from what I’ve seen is more “love it or hate it” than the rest of her work, so, just some info to help people decide if it sounds interesting.
Let’s look at the blurb of the first volume, for an impression:
Troubled young Fawn Bluefield seeks a life beyond her family’s farm. But en route to the city she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers nomadic soldier-sorcerers from the northern woodlands. Feared necromancers armed with mysterious knives made of human bone they wage a secret ongoing war against the scourge of the “malices”, immortal entities that draw the life out of their victims, enslaving human and animal alike. It is Dag—a Lakewalker patroller weighed down by past sorrows and onerous present responsibilities—who must come to Fawn’s aid when she is taken captive by a malice. They prevail at a devastating cost—unexpectedly binding their fates as they embark upon a remarkable journey into danger and delight, prejudice and partnership . . . and perhaps even love.
This gives a decent impression of Lakewalkers seen from Farmer eyes. I don’t think the “feared” and “mysterious” bits hold hold up from reader side, since Dag is also a viewpoint character.
This is not a story about monster-hunting. It’s a romance that starts with Dag saving Fawn from a monster, but that’s over in the first quarter or so of the book. The rest is them falling for each other Dag introducing Fawn to the joys of sex, and cultures clashing, a lot of the latter as Dag tries to win his future in-laws over. Good if you like romance, not good if you don’t, and start the book expecting mostly adventure with a little romance added.
There is also some potential squick involved… Dag and Fawn fall hard for each other, but, well, Dag… we’re talking about a man falling for a girl who’s a third his age, and the first appreciative mental comment on the shape of her breasts from him comes when he interrupts some bandit attempting to rape her. In addition, as a Lakewalker he has “groundsense” that Fawn as a Farmer doesn’t, which includes that he always has a pretty good idea what she feels, leaving her with rather less mental privacy than he has.
All things considered, Dag comes out this side of decent, and he cares deeply about Fawn, and she falls hard for him, too, but some things I try not to dwell on too much.
The focus of the series shifts in later volumes, particularly in the third and fourth books, which include Dag and Fawn dealing with a life neither of them was prepared for, and trying to tackle the big problem of that world by talking to people.
It’s slow-paced and focuses on people and their interactions, with a big side of culture clash. Violent threats are usually a surprise rather than long prepared for; there is no “big bad” that our protagonists overcome with epic heroics. I love that. I’ve seen reviews complain that the “the world would be better if people just talked to each other more”-approach was naive, but I loved it. Changing the world one opinion at a time, by talking, is a nice change from hack and slash.
I got the first book of this series “warned” by negative reviews and halfway expecting to hate it. It involved more sex than I’m used to, but I enjoyed the humour and other parts of the book so much I was very glad I couldd get the ebook version of the rest of the series (particularly since it really is the first half of a story that got too long for one book), without having to wait for shipping. For me, definitely something for the list of things to re-read.