In a world where malices, remnants of ancient magic, can erupt with life-destroying power, only soldier-sorcerer Lakewalkers have mastered the ability to kill them. But Lakewalkers keep their uncanny secrets—and themselves—from the farmers they protect. So when patroller Dag Redwing Hickory rescued farm girl Fawn Bluefield, neither expected to fall in love, marry, and defy both their kin to seek new solutions to the split between their peoples.
As Dag’s abilities have grown, so has his concern about who—or what—he is becoming. At the end of a great river journey, he is offered an apprenticeship to a master groundsetter in a southern Lakewalker camp. But as his understanding of his powers deepens, so does his frustration with the camp’s rigid mores with respect to farmers. At last, he and Fawn decide to travel a very different road—and find that along it, their disparate but hopeful company increases.
Fawn and Dag see that their world is changing, and the traditional Lakewalker practices cannot hold every malice at bay forever. Yet for all the customs that the couple has challenged thus far, they will soon be confronted by a crisis exceeding their worst imaginings—one that threatens their Lakewalker and farmer followers alike. Now the pair must answer in earnest the question they’ve grappled with since they killed their first malice together: When the old traditions fail disastrously, can their untried new ways stand against their world’s deadliest foe?
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"Bujold is really creating her own genre at this point in her career... and doing a masterful job of it. It's fantasy - but set in a rural/agrarian culture reminiscent of frontier America, with a population divided into farmers and lakewalkers. The lakewalkers have a pseudo-psychic ability to sense "ground" (lifeforce?) and manipulate it; their purpose is to hunt and kill malices (malignant creatures that eat or absorb the grounds of people). There are hints of a long-ago apocalypse that created malices and perhaps also lakewalker abilities... but that background and all these details are really subordinate to the central story. In the central story it becomes a romance - a winter/spring relationship between Dag, a lakewalker, and Fawn, his farmer bride. He is 56, with a lifetime of sorrows behind him. She is 19, but wise and determined beyond her years. As we follow the two of them over the course of four books we get to watch interesting, complex characters take on realistic challenges and deal with issues of prejudice and deep-seated traditions."
Kiri (5 out of 5 stars)