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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Tears of the Sun by S. M. Stirling

Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History

Setting: A fantasy version of Western North America

First Sentence:  Rudi Mackenzie -
Artos the First, High King of Montival though yet to be formally crowned - finished the last crusty bite of the ham sandwich, savoring the smoky taste of the cured meat and sharp cheese, and washed it down with the last swallow in the clay crock of beer.

This novel is the eleventh in Stirling's Change series.

Twenty-five years ago and event occurred which changed life on Earth forever.  The people living on or near the island of Nantucket were transported thousands of years into the past.  Their struggles to survive formed the first three novels of Stirling's Change series.

For the rest of the planet, the laws of physics were drastically changed.  Almost all technology created after the Industrial Revolution were rendered useless.  The struggles of humans to survive and adapt to a new reality form the plot of the next three novels in the series.

In the ensuing four novels, the plot follows characters born after the change event.  They trek across the North American continent to the island of Nantucket.  There they encounter powerful supernatural forces.  And Rudi acquires the magical Sword of the Lady.  In these novels we learn that there is an evil which wishes to destroy the powers of good.  As Rudi Mackenzie and his band return to Montival they gather warriors to join them in the fight.

In this novel, the focus of the plot has returned to the Kingdom of Montival.  Rudi is now recognized as the High King.  He possesses the powerful Sword of the Lady.  It is believed that the sword will give Rudi and his followers an advantage in the decisive battle against the evil Church United and Triumphant (CUT) and its evil prophet.  Montival is marshaling all of its forces to fight against the evil CUT.  And even the most skeptical leaders of Montival have come to realize how truly evil and supernatural the CUT and its prophet are.

The first half of this novel was a struggle for me to get through.  The novel is heavy on exposition as the author reintroduces us to a host of characters who have been waiting in the wings for the last four novels of the series. In the last half of the story, the action picks up, and the book becomes more enjoyable to read.

Stirling uses a third person omniscient point of view to relate the story.  One of his devices is to reveal not only the thoughts of his characters but their inner self-talk.  He uses this device to deliver much of the exposition.  I found this device to be somewhat distracting.

The author moves back and forth between characters.  He also has his characters relate in flashbacks action that occurred when the focus of the plot was on the quest for the sword.  For me, the large cast of characters and the number of flashbacks made the plot a bit confusing at times.

Stirling can be heavy on detailed description.  I found the detailed descriptions of entrees and side dishes at every meal, of each character's apparel, of the many heraldic coats of arms, and of the swept out and beflowered fireplaces (including a list of every bloom on display)  in each baron's solar to be unnecessary.

 I didn't dislike this book.  For me this novel felt like a set up for the finale.  The author is putting all his characters in place for the final battle.  And, I will be reading the next book to find out what happens next.

If you are interested in this book, I suggest you go back to Dies the Fire and read the books in order.

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