Fleeing her large, unsupportive farming family and an uncertain future, young Fawn Bluefield makes her way to Glassforge, a city where she hopes to make a new life. En route she runs into Dag Redwing, an “old” experienced Lakewalker patroller out hunting what farmers call blight bogles or malices – evil spirits which take over the essence of living beings, animal and humans alike. Most mysterious to the farmers is the sharing knifes they carry, which are made of human bone and primed by the willing death of a fellow Lakewalker. Being a Lakewalker himself Dag is willing to “share” a life with a malice and has the ability to sense a person’s ground, or essence. Unbeknown to Fawn, Dag feels her groundsense that day. They both go their own ways until Fawn is captured by a malice herself and Dag comes to her rescue. Fawn is not defenseless however and in their next encounter she unknowingly binds them together when she uses Dag’s unprimed sharing knife to kill their attacker. What ensues is a journey of clashing cultures, shared sorrows and unexpected healing for both Fawn and Dag, who has his own emotional baggage to carry.
And that was my favorite part about this book – shaggy-haired, lanky, one-handed Dag Redwing. Caring, resourceful, and experienced, he modestly goes about his patroller business as one of the best out there. He’s always believed he’s lacked the creative magic that some Lakewalkers possess but he’s has that, too although he doesn’t know it. At one point he’s out both hands and he still manages to defend Fawn, whether it’s a malice attack or misguided missive? from her own people. While I missed some of the worldbuilding and action of the first half, which is more traditionally fantasy-quest plotted, I still found the cultural negotiation between Lakewalker and farmer culture in the last half interesting. I knew going in that this is romantic fantasy, so at times the focus would be more on the main relationship and their character development, and nothing is lacking in this category. Both Fawn and Dag’s backstories are revealed gradually as their relationship slowly develops into something more than friends. Surprisingly enough to me, even the age gap wasn’t off-putting. I loved Dag and came to really like simple, naïve yet mature Fawn. I connected with her outcast family situation and the quiet courage that emerged when she most needed it. I wish the sharing knife plotline could’ve played out in this book because frankly I found the concepts of malices, groundsense, and sharing knifes all very intriguing. Otherwise Beguilement was a well-executed and satisfying romantic fantasy that I would recommend to fans of the subgenre.