Jilly: Bujold’s Sharing Knife Books, Old and New

I was super-excited to learn from Michaeline’s post a couple of weeks ago that Lois McMaster Bujold is to publish a new novella in her Sharing Knife universe. I’m a huge fan of the original tetralogy and somehow I never expected her to revisit this story world, so I feel a squee brewing. Yay! Fingers crossed!

The new novella, called Knife Children, should be published later this month. I see from LMB’s Goodreads blog (link here) that it can be read as a standalone, so if you’re tempted to take a look, don’t assume you have to read the original four books first.

That said, if you’re short of something to read right now, and you enjoy engaging, subtle fantasy stories, you could always try Beguilement, followed by Legacy, Passage, and Horizon. I usually revisit these books once or twice a year, so I’ve been enjoying a leisurely re-read this month while I wait for Knife Children.

I’ve also been pondering, not for the first time, exactly why these books fit so well with my personal id list—the tropes, characters, premises and details that I, as a reader, really, really like (click here to read more about id lists).

I’ll try to describe in a fairly generic, non-spoilery way what I enjoy most about the stories.

The books are set in an imaginary pre-industrial country that looks a lot like America. There are typical fantasy elements—romance, a hero with mage-like powers, scary mythical creatures, blood magic, powerful objects, horses-n-swords, success against overwhelming odds—but here the story is so grounded in normality that the fantastic aspects blend seamlessly with the familiar.

Right from the start of the book the hero and heroine’s romance is as inevitable as it appears improbable. Fawn is a dewy eighteen-year-old farmer’s daughter, two months pregnant after a disappointing tryst in a cornfield, who runs away from home rather than be branded a slut. Dag is a fiftysomething-year-old one-armed battle-scarred widower who has nothing left in life but thankless duty. From their first desperate encounter with one of the aforementioned scary creatures, Dag and Fawn rescue one another, and it rapidly becomes apparent to them (if not to anyone else) that their differences make them perfectly suited, empowering them both. Her common sense, logic, honesty and hungry curiosity challenge his idealism and stimulate his talent for innovation, leading him to develop all kinds of hitherto unsuspected abilities.

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Michaeline Recommends: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

A stylish woman sailing on a lake in the mountains.

The future of Sergyar!

Lois McMaster Bujold’s new book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, was released on February 2, and when I checked just now, it was #11 in Space Operas on the Amazon rankings chart, and #18 in Adventures –> Science Fiction. (find the links here on GJ&RQ’s Amazon page; BTW, the rankings listed didn’t jive with the links) (Don’t put too much trust in these figures; they change hourly, and are sure to be different by the time you read this. At any rate, hooray for book number 17 in the Vorkosigan Saga!)

Studying this release is interesting from several angles. First of all, it’s a great book from the fan perspective (it ties up a lot of loose ends in surprising ways), and it’s also accessible to the first-time reader. (Bujold blogs about it – a long-time concern is that she’s afraid fans are scaring off new readers by saying, “Oh, you really need to read all 15, 16, 17 books in order to really appreciate this one.” Here on her Goodreads blog, she links to proof that it’s not so.)

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