Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold

As much as I like romance, I rarely can stomach romance novels. Saying that, I'm aware that I'm in danger of jumping on the "romance novels suck" bandwagon, which is not my intention. Especially since that ride is filled with the usual pack of misogynistic crap, i.e., romance being about emotions and feelings and only silly, frivolous women read or write anything that pointless.

But with a few exceptions, I've found most romance unreadable. The "why's" could take up a master's thesis. To be brief I'll say it's the lame characters and forced interactions which leave me wondering what kind of fucked up lives their authors lead.

Recently, I came across a recommendation for Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife. Because I'm either a glutton for punishment or eternal optimist (likely the former), I gave it a try. It really being a two book series-Beguilement and Legacy . (There are more books in the series, but the meat of the romance is probably in the first two books.)

A fantasy romance, the story follows Dag Redwing, a kind of sorcerer/ranger and Fawn Bluefield, a farmer. Dag's people are the semi-nomadic Lakewalkers, whose primary culture mission is to hunt down and eliminate magical baddies called malices. And Fawn's people, the farmers, well they farm. Although both groups depend on each other, over the centuries, misunderstandings have evolved into prejudice.

Dag and Fawn's relationship is a May-December affair, but the main obstacle to their love the enduring mistrust between their peoples.

So does it work, romance-wise? Hell, yeah. First, the author actually lets the characters get to know each other. As opposed to the typical, lust at first sight, "OMG, he's so hot, I can't stop thinking about his ass," approach of some romance. There's nothing wrong with lust. But romance is supposed to be Happily Ever After. If the heroine and hero have nothing in common except perfectly fitting genitalia, the odds of a long, happy life spend navigating the challenges of kids, mortgages and in-laws are low.

Bujold builds Dag and Fawn's relationship so well, that even though it's soon screamingly obvious that the social realities of their situation--different cultures--are going to be prohibitive, I was rooting for their relationship.

Fawn, despite being by our modern standards, practically a child, is mature and levelheaded, much more so than the adult ninnies featured in many romance novels. No hysterics. No picking fights with the hero. (If I read another "un-witty repartee=sexual tension" plotline, I'll poke my eyes out with a spork.)

Dag is effective as the middle-age, but young at heart hero. Though more than capable as a warrior, he isn't a testosterone-poisoned alpha male.

Fans of Bujold's more action-y fantasy probably won't like The Sharing Knife. But as a romance novel, it works.

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