. . . And won’t let go.
At last count, I had about 25 books in my To-Read pile. But for some reason earlier this month I just couldn’t get into either of the ones I’d picked up. I’m likely to drop one and come back to the other later. What did I do? Did I pick up another book from that teetering stack? No, I didn’t.
I went back to a tried and true story I’ve read at least twice before. THE SHARING KNIFE series–BEGUILEMENT, LEGACY, PASSAGE, and HORIZON–by Lois McMaster Bujold. I know exactly how this story is going to go and how it’s going to end, and I am as caught up in it as if I were reading it for the first time. I can’t even think about picking up another book. I’m finding extra time to read.
That is the kind of story I aspire to write. So, I have to spend a little time trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes this story so enthralling.
In large part, it’s the characters. Lois McMaster Bujold does the redemption of damaged characters better than any other writer I can think of. Characters who start out half-dead inside, then find a reason to fight to live, and then nearly lose it again. That is a riveting story.
But it’s more than that, of course. It’s how alive those characters feel. With virtues and flaws and dark places they don’t want to probe too deeply.
It’s the way the setting is drawn on my imagination. It doesn’t hurt that THE SHARING KNIFE is in a non-standard fantasy setting. Not some parallel medieval setting for this one. This is much more like–very much like–the Mississipi River Valley during its early settlement.
It helps that in addition to the individual trials of the characters, there are also two cultures in conflict. And nasty monsters–some human, some definitely not–that have to be vanquished along the way.
And, of course, it’s all tied together with her writing style that just eases me into that world with no bumps or hitches along the way.
But really, I think it’s the characters.
There’ve been a few other stories that grabbed me this way. Stories that often made me keep thinking about those characters long after I’d finished the book(s).
Back to reading. And thinking.