The Sharing Knife: Passage (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2008) is a beautiful book. It's the third in a planned four-book series, so by now Bujold has established her world and her characters. And because she's an established author writing an ongoing series, she has the luxury of a nice, leisurely opening. It feels like we're just visiting old friends for the first 100 pages or so as Bujold subtly sets up her plot, and even once the story is off and running, there's an intimacy and community among the characters that I just love.
On the plot front, she's set up some intriguing dilemmas for her finale. Fawn and Dag still haven't really made either of their peoples accept their marriage, though they begin to build a sort of Scooby Gang of Lakewalkers and farmers. And Dag is experimenting with his growing powers despite his exile from any experienced maker who could tell him what to do and what to avoid, and in ways that strike me as dangerous, body and soul.
The problem with reading a book like this is it makes me cranky about my own writing. Bujold's work is just so quietly, subtly excellent, with a flowing voice and vivid characterization. I want to create a community of characters like that and to write about them so beautifully, and I know I'm not there yet! It also makes me difficult to please as a reader. I finished this book last night and have opened two others I was planning to read this week (both library books due on Thursday), but I couldn't get through more than a few pages. One, from an author I've enjoyed in the past, felt too flat and distant. The other was clever and playful, but coming directly off Bujold it felt overwritten and contrived. So I'll read some nonfiction to cleanse my palate before I can be fair to another novel!