Book Review 2008 #47: Sharing Knife: Horizon

(disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for writing a review of its ARC)
Sharing Knife: Horizon is the fourth, and possibly final volume in the adventures of Dag and Fawn.

The Sharing Knife series comes to a stopping point, if not a conclusion, in this fourth volume in the story of Dag, a Lakewalker whose powers are maturing as he is growing older, and his young Farmer bride Fawn. The first two novels introduced us to the two of them, their romance, and the very different lives that comprise the two halves of their world. The third novel brought us on a grand river adventure south in the company of a motley set of companions ranging from Fawn’s brother to a pair of runaway Lakewalker patrollers.
This fourth and final volume has the group start in the south, not long and not far where we left them by the sea, and takes us back to the north. Bujold shows a strong hand for story as Fawn and Dag meet the very different Lakewalkers in the south in New Moon, and then the characters that accompany them on the long road back north and east.
Such a long overland adventure is bound to be full of adventure, and, reaching back to the second novel, Bujold places yet another menace, a unique and dangerous malice and its horrifying minions in the way of the party. The action and adventure are a little more front and center in this novel as opposed to the third. The romance angle of the first two novels is less in evidence here. There is some, but less humor than the previous novels.
Bujold’s strength,though, always has been strong characters, from the “top of the ticket” in Dag and Fawn, down to the minor characters, and even minor characters whom we meet only once. It’s the characterizations and the interactions between the characters that Bujold homes in on. I remember listening to an interview of Bujold for the old SF Encyclopedia, where she talks about her desire to explore the psychology of characters (internal and external). Since then, I’ve looked for that in her novels and seen what she means by that. Sharing Knife: Horizon is an exemplar of her writing philosophy at work.
The end of the book neatly wraps up the story of Dag and Fawn in the Sharing Knife world, and it seems to me that Bujold is looking to the future where she is going to write novels with different characters, or a different world entirely. Sharing Knife: Horizon is an excellent capstone to the series. Once again, while it would be plausible for a new reader to pick up this volume and be quickly immersed in the world, I think the volume works best having read the previous books in the series.