These are essentially one book in two parts; they are romance in a fantasy setting instead of fantasy with a romantic subplot. I read these because Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favorite authors; however, I waited for paperback for the first one and have the second one from the library (they had issues for a while and never had the first one). I did not find the various descriptions of Beguilement very appealing; this is the description from its back cover:
Troubled young Fawn Bluefield seeks a life beyond her family’s farm. But en route to the city, she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers, nomadic soldier–sorcerers from the northern woodlands. Feared necromancers armed with mysterious knives made of human bone, they wage a secret, ongoing war against the scourge of the “malices,” immortal entities that draw the life out of their victims, enslaving human and animal alike.
It is Dag—a Lakewalker patroller weighed down by past sorrows and onerous present responsibilities—who must come to Fawn’s aid when she is taken captive by a malice. They prevail at a devastating cost—unexpectedly binding their fates as they embark upon a remarkable journey into danger and delight, prejudice and partnership . . . and perhaps even love.
There are some inaccuracies in this but it does give a good indication of what it will be like. Beguilement has the descriptions of the world and the way it works: there are farmers and Lakewalkers; the Lakewalkers have groundsense, which allows them to have a feeling about their general area and the people and other beings in it; some can use it to make things (coats that will repel water, ropes that won’t break, etc.), and they mostly consider the farmers as lesser beings. The Lakewalkers call everyone else farmers; farmers discourage relationships with Lakewalkers, and Lakewalkers forbid outside relationships. It starts with Fawn and Dag meeting and the encounter with the malice, the incident with the knife of the title, and continues through the beginning of their relationship and Fawn’s return home. Legacy finds Dag and Fawn returning to Dag’s home and the problems they face there.
I liked Beguilement well enough; I tend to like the getting-together portions of romances best, and it was interesting learning about the world itself. Even though it is really only half a book, it was a satisfying read on its own, and had a decent ending; the significance of the knife and the reaction of Dag’s people to the relationship were the only bits left hanging. I didn’t like Legacy that much; I wanted to smack some sense into both Fawn and Dag (and occasionally Dag’s family) and found myself wondering if Fawn was Dag’s midlife crisis. Most of Dag’s family was (deliberately) unlikeable, and the Lakewalker society as a whole seemed annoying and hard-headed and prejudiced. There was far too much of Fawn worrying about fitting in and trying to be accepted; I don’t really want to read about people becoming accustomed to a different culture. She also seemed a bit too impulsive and hard-headed (typical teenage girl); I didn’t mind this in the first, but in the second it became annoying.
I don’t really like large age differences, though it’s not an automatic no for me; if it’s presented as normal in the society, it doesn’t bother me as much, but there was opposition on the basis of Dag’s age as well as his being a Lakewalker. Also, the mental ages are more important to me than the physical ages, but Fawn seemed very young, and Dag seemed much, much, much older (18-55 seems about right); the Lakewalkers do seem to age a little bit more slowly than the farmers, but even 18 to 40 (what Fawn first thought Dag’s age was) is a little too much for me. I also don’t like love-at-first-sight or short-but-fast-moving type relationships, especially when there are very good reasons against the relationship (age, farmer vs. Lakewalker). I can overlook some of these things in the hands of a good author (and Bujold is a good author), but I didn’t find the speed of the relationship very convincing, especially since Fawn’s previous attempt at a relationship ended badly (rebound+experimentation?). The bit with the knife in the title seemed like it was only really important as an excuse for Fawn and Dag to be together; it was useful but did not seem to have any real meaning.
I liked the setting, and wouldn’t mind reading other books in this world; I don’t want to read any more about Fawn and Dag, even though the ending left the possibility of other stories about them. I wanted to like these books; I have read most of Bujold’s works and count several of them among my favorites (including the ones with strong romantic subplots), but these had several romance tropes that I personally don’t like, and they were enough to make me dislike Legacy. I will probably buy Legacy in paperback, eventually, though, and read any further books (even if they include Fawn and Dag).