Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review: S.M. Stirling's The Given Sacrifice

S.M. Stirling's novels of the Change are an interesting blend of sociology, medieval and pre-industrial history, and alternative reality speculative fiction. The Given Sacrifice ends the saga of the second generation of history after the Change, when "the lights went out" and electricity and internal combustion engines (and a few other inventions) stop working when a few specific laws of nature decide to start working differently. 

The Given Sacrifice, the 10th novel, does a good job of ending this "Generation 2" cycle of the Change series. The novel is written in two parts. The first completes the epic struggles and battles of the newly formed kingdom of Montival against the "Cutters." It is the story of Rudi MacKenzie and his generation of "Changlings." This part of the novel is a war on several fronts, and the conflicts of the earlier novels weave together to a satisfying, lance-sword-and-arrow bloodifying climax. Part 2 provides a long denouement where each faction and group of significant lesser characters are seen moving toward the fulfillment of their cultural and personal desires. This may seem overmuch, but after seven books of sighs and articulations of what peacetime will be like, it is fulfilling to see closure. Besides, after the multiple endings of The Lord of the Rings, a "what's happening in the kingdom now" ending is canonical tradition.

Of course, the title The Given Sacrifice provides a clear prophesy of what's going to happen to poor old Rudi, King Artos I. This is no spoiler. He's told several times in earlier novels about his early sacrifice for his people and country, he recollects aloud this several times in the novel, and--by golly--Artos and Stirling (and the gods or Powers) aren't just jerking our chain. The appeal of the ending isn't the unexpected turn of events; its Stirling's ability to provide detail to create both stirring action and authentic pathos that makes the ending worthy of seven books' worth of build-up.

And, incidentally, we are introduced to Princess Orlaith, Rudi's eldest child, and beckoned through Stirling's keyboard to the adventures of Generation 3 of the Change, introduced by the novel The Golden Princess, already available for purchase. The saga continues!

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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