Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: 2006, Eos
This is Volume 1 of The Sharing Knife, which I believe is to be a duology. (Does anyone else think the word duology is kind of dumb? Trilogy, I get. Duology? Meh.) I have read a few Bujolds and really enjoyed them all, and I liked this one too, even though it seemed quite different in some ways.
Fawn Bluefield runs away from home because she's pregnant after an ill-advised and regretted tumble in the haystacks with a boy from her hometown. Her family has never really understood her, and she knows that they will be disappointed in her. She's heading for the nearest town when she's set upon by a bandit and a mud-man. These mud-men are fantastical beasts which are created by a malice, some sort of strange embodiment of evil that sprouts up occasionally. Malices are hunted and killed by a group of people called the Lakewalkers. Dag, a Lakewalker patroller, catches up to the mudman who has attacked Fawn and together they must fight the monster.
That action only covers maybe the first half of the book. The second half really centers on the romance between Dag and Fawn (which is lovely!). They are from different worlds (she from a farmer family, he from the Lakewalkers) and they must try to figure out if a relationship between the two of them would ever work. I loved the romance--it was so sweet. Bujold does sweet without the sap, which always makes me happy. The characters are great and Dag reminded me of the hero in The Curse of Chalion--older, wiser, self-sacrificing.
People who are put off by age differences should be warned--major May/December thing going on here. It usually bothers me, but it doesn't in this case, I think because it's fantasy.
I mentioned earlier that this seemed different from the other Bujolds I've read. And the difference I think is just the simplicity of this book. And I don't mean that in a bad way. The other Bujolds I've read had lots and lots of layers of plot--the romance, political intrigue, adventure. This one has a smaller cast characters and the majority of the plot simply revolves around Fawn and Dag's relationship. Great for romance readers like me, though other Fantasy readers may be disappointed. Even though it did seem simpler, it definitely was not boring to me. The characters were interesting enough to hold up the book on their own.
The second installment, Legacy, is due out in July, I think.