[LMB] Knife Children

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 29 16:09:11 BST 2019

So... here we go....

Barr is coming home from two years in Luthlia. He's been around the
Lake, it seems. Now he's headed home - there's that concept of home
again. He loves the familiar sights, smells, plants, climate: he's coming

And before he even gets home, he's making a familiar detour, to check
on his unrecognised daughter. Barr has the reputation for being a bit
heedless, but he's been faithful to this duty for a dozen years, dropping
by now and then to keep an eye on her.

Side note; the introduction to this novella is a master class in how to
make an infodump so smooth and interesting that you don't even realise
it's happening. There's enough information for a newbie to pick up the
important bits, without slowing the narrative.

Barr has grown a lot as a patroller, his groundsense range is much wider
than it was before. We're starting to see that Barr the 'flitter-wit', as he
was called before, has grown up a lot.

It's all so familiar, almost a part of home for him; the way to Lily's farm,
the woodlot he hides in, the path to his viewing spot to check on her.

At eighteen Barr was a heedless lout. He hadn't raped Bluebell, she was
keen enough, but he'd certainly tried to use his powers to push her into
consent. It was questionable and sleazy. But once he found out he had a
 child, he spent the next twelve years faithfully monitoring her. And he
grew up.

And although, frustratingly, we never see Dag in this novella, we get
plenty of references to him; he's a huge factor in Barr's life. I wonder
what Barr would have been like if he hadn't met Dag?  For one thing,
he was sent to Luthlia as training to become a patrol leader; that's a
huge step forward for him.

Meanwhile Lily has lived as a farmer, with no Lakewalkerish hints about
her. Barr is hoping it stays that way.

And he finds nobody. There's nothing but ash. Ash and one small, new
grave. Barr is shocked and frantic with worry; Lily was supposed to be
safe there. (We'll discuss his definition of 'safe' later.)

He goes to the smithy for information. And we see how small changes
are seeping in: the smith's apprentice is his daughter. His son went on
the river, so he's training his daughter, and he's so proud of her skills.

Turns out the barn burned down because a child was playing with
candles, or some such. Two children: the boy blamed the girl, the girl
blamed the boy. The fire spread from the barn to the house; they got
the children out but lost everything else.

It was Lily, and the second son, Edjer, who'd 'always been a handful'.
But the boy died later, from smoke damage. And Bell didn't like her
daughter to blame the dead son for the fire. Fid, the father, was burned,
too. So they're all staying with Bell's sister - and Bell is about to have
the next baby. A full and not very happy household there.

Barr knows the place, he scans it, but there's no Lily. As he soon finds
out, there's no Lily anywhere, she's gone.

So we have the background, the crisis, the characters. And Barr, a bit
older and wiser.

The first time I read this novella, I tried so hard to read it slowly, because
I wanted to visit this world again and wanted to stay there for as long
as I could. But I wanted to read fast to find out what happened. We just
slip into it all so comfortably.

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list