This series could have been so much better if it was less about the romance and more about...everything else. The malices/mud-men/mages and all the back story with the Lakewalkers and their magic and whatnot was really compelling. The world was really interesting, and a lot was made of how dangerous the north is but we never get anything except for a vague reference to the character Dag's time spent up there. The whole story with how the Lakewalkers essentially need two deaths to be shaped into a knife, and that knife to be used to teach a malice how to die was really interesting. There was so much potential story here...Too bad we instead only get to see how to destroy a pretty great character: when Dag gets mixed up with a farmgirl who has absolutely no personality.
All I learned about Fawn was that she was curious (well, enough to get herself pregnant, which is how we meet her running away from home), tottered a lot (which puts me in mind of a toddler, and then makes me think of the age difference between her and Dag -- 37 years!), and tossed her head all the time like a self-involved preteen. There's absolutely no character growth for her. And her brother, who we're supposed to basically hate right from the start, becomes a more compelling character as the story drags along.
If this series had been about the war between Lakewalkers and malices, with Dag and some of the other characters figuring out along the way that farmers need to be in on it too, this story would have been fantastic, especially in the hands of such a proven talent as Ms Bujold. If the romance had been a side-story it would have been interesting. Heck, if the female character had been less of a Mary Sue and more of an actual person, this story would have been fantastic! But it's not.
And 3 stars because I read all four volumes, and why would I stick around just to give the whole thing a bad rating?