I cry foul! I thought Bujold wrote sophisticated fantasies in interesting worlds (Hugo winner? Hello? ), but this one is strictly pedestrian, and I don't mean in an alternative transportation, heart-healthy way. We follow a pregnant farm girl who has left home with the half-formed intention of seeking a new life in the city, when she's captured by a 'malice' (really??), a sinister force that is converting animals and people into frightening biddable mud-men (David Edding's snake powered mud-men, anyone?) for Evil Purposes. Thankfully, a member of the Native American Lakewalker tribe patrol is on the track of said mud-men and the malice. He saves her, they take refuge, she's stolen again when he leaves (!), they kill the malice together and then fall in love in a farmhouse interlude. (Believe me, I'm spoiling nothing, as this takes place in the first 60 pages and is utterly predictable). The rest of the story is about discovering their love and commitment Against Outside Forces, to the Dismay of their Families. (Ah, the timelessness of [b:Romeo and Juliet|18135|Romeo and Juliet|William Shakespeare|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327872146s/18135.jpg|3349450]). The fantasy world setting and the Evil Forces are forgotten as we zero in on their burgeoning relationship. In fact, it's a vaguely creepy, as it takes place between a worldly, widowed 55 year-old man and a naive 18 year-old farm girl, and of course involves teaching her about The Joys of Sex, titillating any eleven-year olds reading. But don't worry about the age difference--his people are long-lived (calling Edward...). The one positive--he's differently abled, as he has only one hand. Oh, and he's tall and thin; she's short and round (forgive me, oh Librarian, but I heard "jack sprat" echo in the background once I heard their descriptions). Normally, I wouldn't even rate a book like this, except it was so dismally envisioned and written that I can only surmise an evil Doppelganger has taken Bujold's place and is endeavoring to destroy her reputation. As a public service I'm sharing my thoughts, in hopes of steering you towards--oh, I don't know. Go pick something from your TBR pile.If you are truly in the mood for some fantasy-world, naive-female romance, skip this and read a more original fantasy version, [b:Winds of Fate|13995|Winds of Fate (Valdemar Mage Winds, #1)|Mercedes Lackey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348306174s/13995.jpg|1040567]. At least the characters are more sophisticated in their development, and the world-building deeper, and better integrated.