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Passage: The Sharing Knife, Book 3    by Lois McMaster Bujold Amazon.com order for
Passage
by Lois McMaster Bujold
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Eos, 2008 (2008)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Passage follows Beguilement and Legacy as the third in Lois McMaster Bujold's delightfully romantic fantasy series that proceeds at a gentle pace. In this world, talented Lakewalkers use groundsense and sacrifice sharing knives - which their people feed with their own deaths, natural or otherwise - to fight an evil that manifests periodically as powerful malices. Misunderstandings on both sides cause hostility between Lakewalkers and the farmers whom they protect.

In Beguilement, a Lakewalker patroller, one-handed Dag Redwing Hickory, saved farmgirl Fawn Bluefield from a malice, which she then helped him kill. Though they married according to Lakewalker rituals, their union was not recognized by Dag's people. Up against a very powerful malice, Dag discovered a new ability, to rip the grounds of living things - a talent disturbingly close to 'the very heart of malice magic'. Concerned about the long-term viability of the Lakewalkers' isolating their communities from farmers, Dag decided to travel with his wife and to try to find a new way. He promised to show Fawn the sea.

As Passage opens, Dag and Fawn visit her family and help with the harvest. Subsequently they, along with Fawn's brother Whit, ride down to Glassforge and on to the Grace River, where they arrange with flatboat captain Berry Clearcreek to travel downriver as crew. Berry has undertaken the journey to search for her father, brother and fiancÚ, who have not returned as expected from their annual voyage. Soon, others tag on to their floating caravan - an abused boy, Hod, whom Dag inadvertently beguiled when he healed him, and two young runaways. Dag continues to heal people in need.

Whenever an opportunity arises - and despite the shocked reactions of fellow patrollers - Dag explains to folk they meet what groundsense is and what Lakewalkers do. He gets better at it over time. The group of flatboat voyagers grows more cohesive, farmers and patrollers working together and learning about each other as they do. Dag experiments in small ways with his new ability. Then they bump into the same trouble that Berry's people encountered - and the story's gentle melody erupts into a violent crescendo, during which Dag does something very likely to come back to haunt him.

As Passage ends, Dag has developed skills as both medicine maker and knife maker, 'but what he really wants to mend is the world.' Fawn is behind him all the way, and their train of followers has lengthened. Dag muses, 'The most important thing about quests ... was not in finding what you went looking for, but in finding what you never could have imagined before you ventured forth.' And Fawn does glimpse the sea. I can't wait for more in this enchanting series.

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