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Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – April 24, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Sharing Knife Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Compelling characters lift this first of a two-book romantic fantasy from Hugo-winner Bujold (The Hallowed Heart), set in a dangerous land without a name, though individual towns, villages and hamlets are specified. Dag, a Lakewalker patroller with a dry wit, is dedicated to destroying the evil "malices" that blight the countryside. Fawn, a runaway farm girl, helps him kill a malice and its zombie-like mud-men, but not before the malice destroys her unborn child by taking its "ground" or life force. Fawn slays the malice with Dag's sharing knife, a bone blade created to carry the spirit of a dying patroller, but Dag's formerly empty knife now carries the baby's ground. Dag and Fawn fall in love while he helps her recover from her miscarriage. Bujold hints at an epic past of mighty kingdoms and ancient sorceries—a past that will hopefully be fully detailed in the sequel. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Bujold's The Curse of Chalion (2001) and The Hallowed Hunt (2005, both Morrow/Avon) walked a fine line between fast-paced quest fantasy and character-driven romance. Here the fantasy is in the background, making the developing romance between the main characters, Dag and Fawn, the primary story. The two meet when the wandering adventurer Dag rescues the farmer's daughter Fawn from a Malice, a powerful demonic creature capable of bending the wills and flesh of others to itself. While there is action and drama, the end result is that the events seem built for the singular purpose of pushing Dag and Fawn together instead of moving along any other plot thread. This is a big shift for Bujold's fans, who might expect layers of political intrigue and thrilling action alongside the love story. Fortunately, the lovers are compelling characters, and Bujold delivers a novel that is a sweet, touching, and fast read. While it seems difficult to imagine how a love story can carry a whole fantasy series, teens will want to see how this tale continues in the next volume.–Matthew L. Moffett, Ford's Theatre Society, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061139076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061139079
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Esther Schindler TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Lois McMaster Bujold has become one of my favorite authors. She has all the skill of worldbuilding of, say, CJ Cherryh, an unrivaled ability to combine humor and unstoppable action, and the ability to draw believeable characters about whom I care desperately. She also knows how to write a romantic love story. Beguilement draws upon all those strengths -- but it's somewhat different than Chalion and the Vor universes.

This is a much simpler tale. For example, it doesn't have the history that the Vor universe has... a history that slowly dawns on you as you figure out the reasons each society adopts given attitudes, and the reasons that Miles Vorkosigan is unlikely to discover simple answers. The books in the Chalion series are built on the premise of gods who can, indirectly at least, interact with the world they created. In Beguilement, the world in which Dag and Fawn live has a history, some of which the author has not yet revealed to us, but the world doesn't draw your attention away from the story. Most of the time, anyway. It also doesn't have the non-stop action that characterizes several of the Vor books (which makes me think of James Bond in Space).

As a result, you don't have to have your brain in operation full-time; Beguilement is a book to relax with rather than to cause you to think deep thoughts.

Some of the reviewers here are disappointed that this is just another love story, but I think they may be missing the clues that Bujold leaves all over the place; you just know that the newlyweds will have more to cope with in the next book than convincing Dag's family to accept Fawn. It's obvious that Dag and Fawn will encounter something far more dangerous than the cultural clash that forms the tension through much of this book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bujold is one of my favorite fantasy authors, on a par with Patricia McKillip and R. A. MacAvoy when she's firing on all of her imagination cylinders. But this book was a bit kinder, gentler, sweeter, and umm, duller than I was expecting from her. I was looking forward to another "Spirit Ring" and got a double-decker romance. To be fair it has a decent monster, but only in a cameo role. It's a quick "Look, there's the Monster!" in Chapter 5, then nothing fantastical appears for the rest of the book.

Okay, well the hero heals a bowl on page 289.

It's usually an indication of laziness, when a second character has to explain why the book's heroine is special, rather than showing her in action and letting the reader decide. Normally Lois McMaster Bujold's specialty is finely wrought, believable characters, but in "Beguilement" she rushes the reader to judgment. We are told right away that Fawn Bluefield is likeable, intelligent, and pretty. There is no real reason for the author to do this, since Fawn is on stage through the rest of the book, and she really has all of those fine qualities. Maybe the author's `tell rather than show' policy is the reason why "Beguilement" seems more like a romance than a fantasy.

Most of the magic and action take place in the first 50 pages of "Beguilement," and after that we are treated to lots of background, world-building, and a slow but obvious romance. However, there's not much of a plot. If I were to leave out what little magic there is, I could summarize the plot as: heroine runs away from home, falls in love, and with the encouragement of her lover, is reconciled with her family. It could almost be a Jane Austen novel except for the monster.

And that pesky bowl.

I'm not really complaining, though. I like romances, and am looking forward to the next installment of "The Sharing Knife." I just feel like I bought the first book of the series under false colours.
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Format: Hardcover
Judging from responses I've seen here and heard elsewhere, the publisher's decision to split _The Sharing Knife_ into two volumes may end up losing some readers, since there's a tendency for people to feel disappointed because the story is incomplete when this volume ends. I wasn't particularly bothered by the "stopped in the middle" ending, but I knew ahead of time, from advance buzz, that this was Part 1 of a larger story. Hopefully, advertising campaigns will emphasize this to avoid reader confusion. I know, it says "Volume 1" right in the title, but sometimes it pays to drive this sort of thing home with a sledgehammer . . . :)

Moving on to the story, I have to say, as with others who have posted reviews, flat-out romance stories are much less my thing than stories which use romance as a supporting plot element, so I wasn't as taken with this book as I have been with the Vor and Chalion series. However, Bujold has been very up-front about wanting to try "something different," and to see if it was possible to have the romantic element "carry" a fantasy novel. I'd say she's succeeded quite well. Though secondary, the world and cultures that frame the love story between Dag and Fawn are well-realized and believable (too often I've seen "romantic fantasy" wherein the fantasy background is obviously a flimsy afterthought, and a grating one at that). I like the decision to have the as-yet-nameless world be based off of a North American, rather than European, model. After all, no reason why one real-world setting should be more appropriate than another, as the basis of a completely imaginary world. And, personally, I like a fantasy setting that contains redwing blackbirds -- they've long been favorite critters of mine.
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