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Knife Children
The Sharing Knife #4.5
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Subterranean Press, $25.00, 208 pages
Published: February 2020

Bujold seems to have wrapped up the Vorkosigan series to her satisfaction, and while we shall continue to hope for adventures in that world, it's always a good day when a new Bujold story makes an appearance. Knife Children is a novella sequel to The Sharing Knife quartet novels, but Bujold excels at making any story she writes accessible to first-time readers, so no worries there. This is realistic fantasy, which means it is ordinary life with clearly defined fantastic elements.

Barr Foxbrush is a Lakewalker, a ranger who is trained to locate and dispatch the deadly wraiths that plague the land. Lakewalkers are not always welcomed by the farmers and townsfolk they protect, because they are different in their ways and not a little uncanny. And Barr knows all too well that farmers have reason to be suspicious of Lakewalkers. Years ago, he'd loosed his as-yet unmastered powers of beguilement at a celebration, with the result that a young woman named Bell got pregnant, even though Lakewalkers usually have trouble siring or conceiving a child. For over a decade, Barr has surreptitiously watched over his unacknowledged daughter, Lily.  Returning from a two-year deployment to the north, he is horrified to find that Bell's farm has burned down. Worse, when he questions the locals, he is told that Lily was accused of setting the fire, and she has run away. So Barr sets out to find Lily and get to the truth of the matter, even if it means telling Lily who her real father is. So this is a coming of age story, both for Lily, who must decide who she is and who she will be; and for Barr, who will have to accept or reject the responsibilities of fatherhood.

The dangers, both physical and emotional, are realistic and deadly, and they have the potential to be tragic. But Bujold's characters are not addicted to tragedy so they do not usually go around making things nine times worse than they need to be. I at least find that refreshing. Heartily recommended. - Chris Wozney

For more titles by Lois McMaster Bujold click here

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