Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Series: The Sharing Knife #1
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Overview: Troubled young Fawn Bluefield seeks a life beyond her family’s farm. Enroute to the city, she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers. The necromancers armed with human bone knives fight “malices”, immortal entities that draw out life, enslaving humans and animals. Dag saves Fawn from a malice – at a devastating cost. Their fates are now bound in a remarkable journey.
Story: I have read dozens of romance novels with a fantasy twist, but I have never before read a robust, rounded fantasy with a full romance focus. It was the very first true hybrid of the genres in my eyes and I have to say, if all romances were presented in this format I doubt I’d read much else. Usually, the biggest draws for a fantasy novel are world-building and events (fight scenes, magic/spell casting, etc. – basically: external conflicts). Romances, on the other hand, often focus exclusively on character and inner conflicts. To find a romance with such an authentic, rich fantasy world kind of blew my mind. I daresay this series is a sub-genre all its own and the unique mix of the two worlds was my favorite element of this story.
Pacing: As a strong character-driven story, most of the conflict was centered around the two main characters’ relationship and, as a result, was very slow-developing. While fantastic for a love story (because as far as I can tell, no one likes an insta-love) readers expecting a lot of action would probably have gotten bored. Personally, I enjoyed the relationship focused so much that I was totally engaged throughout the entire novel. In fact, some of my favorite parts took place when the pacing was at it slowest. Every scene in Beguilement was absorbing, and I lost myself to the internal conflicts of these characters more than once.
World-Building: I am always impressed when an author can come up with a compelling magic system. The magic in the story wasn’t earth-shattering, but it had some really cool history behind it, and I liked what it added to the story. The magic wasn’t the only thing with great history – the different cultures highlighted in the book were fascinating, and you can tell the author spent a lot of time on their development. Also, the villains in this book stems from and enhanced the history of this land (and, in my opinion, are what sold the book to me as a true fantasy). It really set up a strong foundation for what promises to be an excellent series!
Writing: This author screams of awareness. Although the story came across effortless, while analyzing it I could see several conscious decisions made by the author to shape this book into something amazing. Everything from side characters to settings were carefully orchestrated to build up the conflicts and draw you in further. I wish I could break it down more clearly, because it really was all the little things added up that made this a good novel. I applaud this author for not only understanding enough about story and genres to produce this amazing hybrid, but also for her talent as a writer to make everything in this world come alive!
Overall, I am thrilled this book was chosen for the YPFN book club, and I genuinely look forward to seeing where the story goes next!
Recommended Reading: As this one is heavily romance based, I would probably be more inclined to hand it to someone who likes love stories. It is an excellent crossover book for people who love romance and want to try fantasy, and vice versa.
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Discussion time! (May contain spoilers):
Who was your favorite character?
I think Dag (although I really enjoyed Fawn’s aunt). I see him as an honorable character, and loved how he coped with villains, troop mates, and Fawn’s family.
What was your favorite part of the story?
The fact that it was a true mix between fantasy and romance… And done so in a way that brought out the best of both worlds.
We learned part way through the book just how much older Dag was than Fawn… did the significant age difference bother you?
For a while, I felt like it should. I think what saved it for me as that we got a chance to see just how genuinely Dag cared for her and there were no creepy alternative motives surrounding his relationship with this much younger girl. The characters evolved into so much more than age that I ended up coming out with a positive opinion of it. I don’t know that that positive opinion of the gap would transfer over to real life, however.
Did the lack of action after the first quarter of the book bother you?
No, Because I could see that wasn’t the point of the story. If you are going to focus so much on internal conflicts that the external take a backseat, it better be brilliant. And you know what? It was.
The questions are meant to generate conversation, so feel free to answer any or all in the comments area. If you also wrote a review for Beguilement, let me know and I will add a personalized link in this review.