Novella Review: Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 4.5 of The Sharing Knife
Publisher: Subterranean Press (February 29, 2020)
Length: 208 pages
This review was a long time coming. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Knife Children, but I suppose I was saving it for when I needed a comfy read. This novella is part of The Sharing Knife sequence, which has long been a favorite of mine from Lois McMaster Bujold, and I have to say it felt wonderful to be back in the world of Lakewalkers and malices after so many years.
Fortunately, Knife Children is also a standalone, so even if you have not read the previous books you can still jump right in and enjoy it, though of course the experience would be even better if you have. In any case, the book does a pretty good job catching you up with the important details. In the world of The Sharing Knife, inhuman magical creatures called malices prey on people and causes a blight on the land. This is where the Lakewalkers come in. Soldier-sorcerers of a sort, they make it their life’s work to hunt malices and keep the surrounding farms safe.
Our protagonist in this book is Barr Foxbrush, and he’s a Lakewalker. Years ago, he had been shocked to discover he was a father, the result of a brief tryst with a farmer’s daughter. Since then though, he would take the time to check in on the child, named Lily, whenever his patrols would take him near the area. But on his most recent visit, he learns that Lily had disappeared—run away, if what her family says is true. Concerned about what this might mean for the girl, Barr sets off on a mission to find her and learn what it is that made her leave.
I’ll be honest, there’s not much that goes on in this book. At the same time though, there is a place for quieter, more heartwarming stories such as these. It was also by complete accident that I read this on Father’s Day, which turned out to be very appropriate, since much of its themes revolve around fatherhood and Barr’s relationship with Lily. As someone who has always watched out for her from afar, Barr has never really gotten a chance to truly know his daughter. But by spending more time with and her learning about her life, hopes, and dreams, eventually he’s able to see her for the capable and intelligent young woman she has become.
There’s also some light expansion on the world-building, but it’s mostly incidental to the main story which explores the bonds of family and meaning of duty. Still, it felt nice to be wrapped up in the warm glow of this setting once more, and to revisit the magic of the Lakewalkers. It was sweet and touching to read about these characters, and it has also been long enough since I read main novels that in many ways, it was like I was discovering this world all over again.
Bottom line, regardless of whether you’re familiar with The Sharing Knife series, it’s Bujold, so you know you’re in for some amazing writing. I’m not really one for short stories or novellas, but I’ll always gladly read hers because she’s such a master of storytelling and developing meaningful relationships between characters. Poignant and honest, Knife Children was an unexpected joy and I would highly recommend it for fans of the author.