Monday, January 21, 2008

Lois McMaster Bujold

I just finished reading The Sharing Knife Volumes 1 & 2 (Beguilement, Legacy) by Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold is one of my favorite authors. I cannot say enough about the quality of her writing. Indeed, I frequently re-read what she writes because the richness of the language, full-bodied development of the characters and the complexity of her plots are simply unmatched. I rank her as the finest author I read. I have often tried to think of what my top ten favorite book list would be, or my top author list and my list quickly goes beyond ten names or books. (I read a lot!) I confess to feeling some surprise when that phrase "the finest author I read" popped off the page at me. But having said that Bujold is my number one--I confirm it. She is a fabulously talented author.

In The Sharing Knife books, which I read back to back, Bujold has created another new world. I confess to loving the other ones quite a bit, so I approach each new world with optimism and sadness. I'm confident I will like the new world, but I'm sad that she didn't write more with the last world. It 's a conundrum. ;o)

Back to The Sharing Knife review. Hmm, review...I'm probably doing a review-lite here because I'm not much for analyzing books like a real reviewer--I'm first and foremost, a reader. To me, books rise or fall on, "Did I like it?". I loved TSK.

Bujold has created a world in which society is divided into those who devote themselves to commerce and the business of creating goods and inventing and living--and those who protect everyone else for little thanks. I expect some deep thinker could see some analogy to current events today. The "Farmers" are the portion of society that goes about building, creating, growing, without fully understanding that the myths and stories about evil and bogeymen are true. The "Lakewalkers" are the nomadic tribes that deal with the evil and bogeymen at great cost personally, and as a society. These two groups are represented by the heroine--Fawn, a Farmer and the hero--Dag, a Lakewalker. They are the Romeo and Juliet of the story. The classics plots always manage to get a foot in the door, don't they? Okay--that might be pushing it as Fawn and Dag don't off themselves, but they are star-crossed, how's that?

I have read reviews that have characterized the first volume of TSK as the romance and the second volume as what came after. That's a fair portrayal. Beguilement introduces this new world and the main characters and the book culminates with their wedding. Legacy is what happens next. There is a long-held interdict on inter-marriage between Farmers and Lakewalkers and the couple seemed doomed. There is suspicion between the two groups, as well as very different customs. That's the smaller story---in the larger context, evil is afoot and somehow, needs to be stopped.

I don't suppose, I've explained the plot terrifically well, and perhaps that is for the best. After all, I recommend that you read the books for yourself. When I finished TSK: Legacy, it was 2 am on a workday. I don't stay up late reading many books anymore, so I'd say that is a good indicator of the quality of the story. Further, I immediately regretted that I did not have the next book in the series on my side table awaiting me--indicator 2.

For those who think they don't like Science Fiction or Fantasy novels--with which TSK is classified, I say, try it and see. This is firstly a story about two people who don't fit in and find acceptance and love with each other. Secondly, it is a story about how difficult it can be for cultures to accept, appreciate, and understand each other. And finally, what is the cost of protection from evil and who should pay it. The fact that the story includes a little magic does not in any way lessened the strength and complexity of the plot and the thinking you do as you read it.

No comments: