The Sharing Knife: Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold: B+

From the front flap:
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. Alas, their unlikely marriage is met with prejudice and suspicion, setting many in the camp against them. A faction of the camp 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 malice attack on a neighboring hinterland threatening Lakewalkers and farmers both. What his patrol discovers there will not only change Dag and hew 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.

When I reviewed the first installment in The Sharing Knife series, Beguilement, I lamented its lack of a more traditional fantasy novel plot. It’s not that it wasn’t good; it just wasn’t what I expected. This second volume, Legacy, definitely fulfills more of that traditional fantasy role while dealing with the aftermath of Dag and Fawn’s marriage in interesting ways.

Since the two books were originally conceived of as one, this one picks up two hours later, with the newly married Dag and Fawn on their way to Hickory Lake, the Lakewalker camp where Dag’s family resides. When they arrive, all sorts of questions are answered, though it’s the new ones that crop up that prove the more interesting.

Bujold again excels at writing in such a way that it is incredibly easy to visualize the scene and her worldbuilding is unique and thorough. I enjoyed all the details of life at Hickory Lake, including the way the camp is laid out, the clever patrol-tracking system in place in the commander’s cabin, further information on sharing knives and the origin of malices, and the process for settling camp grievances. I also thought it was neat that, like Fawn’s family back in West Blue, Dag’s family is still unable to really see him for his own worth.

More compelling than this, however, is the fact that the novel deals with the question of what Dag and Fawn ought to do now that they are married. What will become of Fawn when Dag goes out on patrol? What if he doesn’t come back; can he trust the camp to provide for her? Will she ever be accepted, even if she displays her cleverness and desire to be useful over and over again? Indeed, it’s Fawn who makes the intuitive leap later in the novel that saves the lives of ten people, yet others almost immediately seek to award credit to Dag somehow. Even those who like her, like the camp’s medicine maker, Hoharie, stop short of recommending a permanent place for her in camp life.

On the more fantasy side of things, Dag is contending with his “ghost hand,” ground that originally belonged to his left hand, now missing, which can be called upon in times of urgency to perform unexpected feats of magic. (Or, as shown in the too-detailed marital consummation scene early in the book, for sexy purposes. At least the rest of such encounters are less explicit.) When a jaunt as captain, commanding several patrols as they strive to exterminate a highly-advanced malice, ends with him using this hand in a couple of new ways, Dag begins to realize that perhaps his life is going to change directions.

What with the way Fawn’s being treated at the camp, the way farmers largely remain ignorant of the malice threat, the threat of banishment arising from his family’s petition to dissolve his and Fawn’s marriage, and the knowledge that maybe he could be something other than a patroller, Dag eventually decides to head out and travel the world with Fawn by his side. Somehow I had absorbed the spoiler that this would eventually happen, but I like that the decision ultimately makes sense.

Overall, I liked Legacy more than Beguilement. I like the lead characters and hope that the small band of supporting Lakewalkers who were on their side in the camp council hearing will be seen again. It looks like Dag and Fawn will be acquiring some traveling companions in the next book, too, which I’m look forward to.

Additional reviews of The Sharing Knife: Legacy can be found at Triple Take.

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  1. Sara K. says

    You might want to read this essay Bujold wrote – . It’s an interesting issue for writers. I personally don’t recall the marriage-consummation scene as being remarkably explicit. Of course, considering the people I’m around, I definitely fall in the desensitized category. I do prefer less details, but unless it’s something really unsavory, it’s hard to make me raise my eyebrows.

  2. I think it probably isn’t too detailed by most people’s standards. And it did tie into the plot of Dag’s ghost hand.

    Thanks for the link. 🙂

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