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Horizon: The Sharing Knife, Volume Four    by Lois McMaster Bujold order for
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Horizon is the fourth in Lois McMaster Bujold's delightful - and romantic - Sharing Knife fantasy series, following Beguilement, Legacy and Passage. As in previous episodes, this one develops at a gentle pace, exploding into violence and action late in the book.

The series is set in a world in which talented Lakewalkers use their groundsense and sacrifice sharing knives - which their people feed with their own deaths, natural or otherwise - to fight powerful malices. There are misunderstandings and hostility between Lakewalkers and the farmers whom they protect. The story began when one-handed Lakewalker patroller Dag Redwing Hickory saved farmer girl Fawn Bluefield from a malice, which she then killed. Though they married according to Lakewalker rituals, Fawn was not accepted by Dag's people. Later, Dag discovered the ability to rip the grounds of living things, a talent disturbingly close to what malices do.

Concerned about both their peoples' future - in the face of growing danger from malices, Dag and Fawn traveled, trying to find a new way. In Passage, they journeyed on the Grace River to the sea, gathering to them a train of fellow travelers - including Fawn's brother Whit, flatboat captain Berry Clearcreek and two runaway patrollers. As Passage ended, Whit and Berry were in love, and Dag was developing by trial and error skills as both knife maker and medicine maker. He used the latter to heal farmers, something forbidden to Lakewalkers because of the danger of beguilement (which Dag found a way to avoid).

As Horizon opens, Whit and Berry wed, while Fawn seeks contact with southern Lakewalkers, to find Dag teachers to train his raw talents. This leads to a separation from Whit and Berry as Dag and a soon pregnant Fawn join the New Moon Cutoff Lakewalkers. There, renowned groundsetter Arkady takes Dag as an apprentice, while Fawn is barely tolerated. That uneasy existence implodes after Dag does the forbidden, healing a farmer child. Though forced to leave the camp, they are joined by Arkady, other Lakewalkers, farmer homesteaders and two siblings of mixed race (as their own child will be). They head north and are joined en route by Whit, Berry and by Dag's niece Sumac.

We see this awkward group slowly begin to trust one another, a fragile trust soon strained by an encounter with a malice (and its mud-men) in flight from something even worse. Not all survive that second attack which challenges all of Dag's skill and Fawn's native wit. After this crescendo of violence, Horizon ends calmly once more in a new home, where Fawn muses about the seeds of understanding and community that she and Dag had sown during their travels, and about her hope for a better future.

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