“…’But if you start down a road you can’t see the end of, there’s a chance you’ll find some dark things along it.’”
“The Sharing Knife Volume One: Beguilement” by Lois McMaster Bujold
My delve into this series by one of newest writerly influences, Lois McMaster Bujold, lead me to realize one solid conclusion: I do not particularly like stories where romance is firmly at the center. Beguilement (and I trust the rest of the series, we will see) is one such book, departing from the more fantasy-focused books I’ve read thus far. Going into it, I knew there would be a romance element, but I was secretly hoping it would be minor. After all, the description for The Curse of Chalion makes it appear that the romance will be front and center, but that was (thankfully) not the case. With Beguilement, though, what you read on the back is basically what you get, although we have strong elements of Bujold’s incredible world-building throughout.
Beguilement is the story of young Fawn Bluefield, a girl on the run from her family farm for reasons that become all too obvious when she is abducted by a creature known as a malice. Enter Dag, a Lakewalker patroller, who saves her from a gruesome end while Fawn, in turn, ends up saving…well, everyone. This opens the door for Fawn to discover the strange world of the Lakewalkers, as well as the world outside her small farm, and, when love blossoms between them despite their differences, it leads Dag to discover Fawn’s world as well, which turns out to be just as strange to him as his world is to hers.
While it’s a solid book on its own right, I found Beguilement a little disappointing. Perhaps it’s because I adore her Chalion books so much, but the writing here seemed a little lackluster and almost lazy. It felt more like a beginner’s novel, from a writer who had yet to find her voice, so I figured perhaps this was an earlier series; I was kind of shocked and disheartened to discover that these books were written after the Chalion books. Though the writing was disappointing, there was still enough of what I like about Bujold to hold me through it. The world is fully realized without heavy exposition; it’s really fascinating, and there’s so much of it in the first part of the book, but it tends to get put towards the background in the latter half, though Dag’s introduction to Fawn’s farmer society is equally fascinating in establishing the every-day normalcy of this world. Fawn starts as an unconventional female character, too, another thing I loved in the Chalion books, but outside of her initial uniqueness, I felt she was a little wishy-washy in certain aspects. The middle half of the book focuses heavily on the romance between Fawn and Dag, which made me lose my attention. As I said, I just don’t dig romance as much, and, honestly, I felt that the main point of the book was essentially to convince us that these two were in love. We shouldn’t have to be convinced that characters have a connection: it should just be there, to the side, and not the whole of the story. I would actually be interested to hear what a fan of romances might have to say to counter my feelings on the matter. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but it was a little bit of a let-down.
Books read: 001/100.