Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Sharing Knife Book 3: Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

When Dag Redwing and Fawn Bluefield met, fell in love and married, they knew there was a place out there for them. But with Dag being a Lakewalker, and having the use of magic, and Fawn being a Farmer, both sets of kin were willing to take them in. But others of their own kind have made trouble for them, unwilling to believe that a Lakewalker and a Farmer could be equal enough to marry. But Dag and Fawn's marriage bands have magic in them and are as well-made as those of any two Lakewalkers, but those of Dag's camp would rather deny that than admit they could be wrong.

Now, with Dag's camp closed to them, and they being unwilling to stay with Fawn's family because of the trouble that Dag's being a Lakewalker brings, they must find a new home for themselves, somewhere far from all the trouble and strife that their marriage has caused to their kin.

Dag takes Fawn's name and decides to fulfill a promise he made to her, to bring her to the sea. But getting there isn't going to be so easy, since one of Fawn's brothers, a troublemaker called Whit, is coming along for the ride. Or at least as far as to sell his father's horses. Whit, however, decides that he definitely wants to go see the ocean for himself, especially when Dag and Fawn sign on with a woman named Boss Berry to take her flatboat down the river. Whit is deeply attracted to Berry, which Fawn distrusts, because this isn't the first time Whit has fallen in love at first sight.

But Berry is on a mission of her own, seeking her father and fianceé, who vanished on a flatboat trip down the river the year before. Her father constructs flatboats, and flots them down to the sea himself, then returns to build another one the following year. Last year, he took Berry's husband-to-be with him, and now neither has been seen since.

Along the way, Dag and Fawn pick up other lost lambs on their way down the river: a pair of Lakewalkers who accidentally destroyed a sharing knife in a fight with townsmen, a boy Dag healed who has now become beguiled by him, and is a danger to himself as he does stupid and painful things to gain more healing from Dag, and a wrecked boat builder looking for lost boats of his own on the river.

But Dag is at the heart of a mystery. His powers seem to be growing, and he could be either a healer or a knife-maker. But with him abandoning his people for not accepting Fawn, he is on his own when it comes to puzzling out his powers and unravelling mysteries that have plagued both Lakewalkers and Farmers since the two first met. Can he solve it in time before the river that took Berry's father and fianceé takes all their lives?

I really enjoyed this book. Dag and Fawn are intelligent characters who don't always know everything, but usually think to ask. Cut off from both sets of their kin, their relationship deepens, and I hope that future volumes in this series take both characters back north to their peoples, both of whom are fascinating in their own way. We also get to see more of different lakewalker camps other than the one Dag came from, and the farmers continuing apprehension towards the Lakewalkers. Even with Dag doing his best to explain things correctly, it is shown how misinformation travels faster and more completely than truth.

Aside from all the character and puzzle aspects of Fawn and Dag's search and journey, the book also includes the mystery of the disappearing vessels, and the ultimate fate of Boss Berry's father and fianceé. The mystery adds a great deal to the book, making it a splendidly woven tale that comes to a surprising and shocking conclusion. This is a book you won't want to put down until you have finished it and you'll find youself unwilling to put it down so you can do just that.

Highly recommended. They don't come much better than this.

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