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.
Lois McMaster Bujold is an incredibly well-known SF/F author and the winner of multiple awards, but so far I have only picked up her fantasy novels - this is the third I have read. Based on my enjoyment of her writing, I absolutely should embark on her Vorkosigan SF series.
Beguilement is the first novel in a quartet of four, and features a group called the Lakewalkers, who patrol to keep the land safe for farmers from malices - something that farmers think is a tall story. In fact, they downright don't trust Lakewalkers, and believe that they eat their dead.
So it turns out Fawn has a lot to learn when she is rescued from bandits by Dag, a Lakewalker patrolman.
On Goodreads, where we can offer ratings, I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars, but, now that I come to think on the book, it's hard to verbalise exactly why. It's rather a simple tale, with very slight evidence of mysterious past happenings, but is pretty light on developing the world. It is far more character driven, somewhat like Sharon Shinn's work. In fact, I would say that if you've enjoyed any Shinn, you should be running out to buy this series immediately because it offers a similar kind of fantasy.
The characters are built simply wonderfully, with inflections on speech, mannerisms being developed, motivations communicated effectively. From the moment that you meet both Dag and Fawn, you are interested to see how their tale will develop.
I was particularly charmed by Fawn. This is a female character who shows strength not through physical ability - she is, in fact, a tiny slip of a thing - but through mental agility. She is shown to ask questions and be curious about everything, has an affinity with people because of her natural charm. She is warm and, above all, incredibly realistic. For this reason, I adored her. And I did love the fact that Dag was drawn to her because of her intelligence. Just perfect.
Dag, himself, is a fascinating character - someone who has had to come to terms with a physical injury, the loss of a hand. How this affects his character and what he is able to do really adds to this lovely tale.
Also, a shout out to the fact that Bujold clearly has had some experience with horses - they're rested, they're looked after, they have characters of their own, and they are not just treated as 'vehicles' to get from one point to another.
So why not a 5 star read? For me, it evoked nostalgic feelings of fantasy I read in my teens. There is no grimness here, there is only a very slight story to accompany the beautiful character building. It reminds me of Tamora Pierce, Shinn and Eddings - lovely prose that draws you in and has you utterly engrossed. It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and I shall eagerly read the other three novels in the series, but it definitely won't appeal to everyone and is not a book that particularly challenged me or made me think. Gorgeous nonetheless!