This is more of a 4.75. Mainly because I felt the book changed so much from beginning to end.
When we first meet Fawn and Dag the story seems like one of action and war. It's brutal and they both have to fight for their lives, saving each other in the process. It evolves into a rather simple, but very nice, romance, however. Since the over-riding arc of the story is completed over the course of several books, the change of tone makes this book itself feel unfinished. Since I plan to read on, it won't be a problem, but this book really kind of feels like a prologue.
Fawn is a young farmer woman who has decided to leave her home and travel to the nearest big town, Glassforge. Dag is part of a unit of Lakewalkers patrolling the area in search of a "malice", a creature that can take animals and give them human shape and language, taking power from its victims until it's big enough to cause real havoc and bloodshed in the population. The Lakewalkers are tasked by tradition and their unique abilities to hunt and fight "malices" and the "mudmen" they create. They are not nearly appreciated enough by the farmers and vice versa.
Dag and Fawn are both damaged in different ways and they touch something in each other that no one else can. Dag is much older than Fawn, be warned, this is definitely a May/December thing. But it ultimately doesn't seem squicky (she's of age, of course) or odd because he sees her as an equal and raises her confidence in ways no one else ever has. I often forgot the age difference as they became actual companions and partners and I fell for their romance in a big way.
The writing is fantastic. Eloquent, descriptive, funny, and romantic, I was fairly enthralled the whole time. I'd been wanting to try this author for a long time but didn't know where to start. Finding books 1, 2 & 3 of this series at the UBS made my decision for me and I'm so happy for it.