The Sword of the Lady (The Change)
by S.M. Stirling
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462909
Date: 25 August 2009 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The journey across America continues. When the last novel, The Scourge of God ended, Rudy Mackenzie was headed to Illinois to retrieve the lost artwork so that his friends and comrades would be free to continue their quest. Rudyís life is never simple. He makes the most of opportunities to make new friends. It is no surprise that he is able to retrieve the lost art. But the CUT has different plans and try to take down Rudy and friends before they can leave Iowa. The plans go awry, but not before there is major loss of life.
They move on to Richland to try to avoid the CUT band. In Richland, Ingolf must face his brother. The companions need to be resupplied to continue their eastward trek. Things seem to be going well, but the evil they face will not rest.
In the West, the war isnít going as well as could be hoped. The powerful magic of the CUT acolytes is making it possible for the CUT alliance to make inroads into the Portland Protectorate and Corvallis territories. Readers should pay close attention to the dates in the chapter headings because the times are not synched chronologically. They do make logical and flow sense.
It is no spoiler to say they will make it to the east. They will learn some of the secrets of the island and universe. But there is still more to be shared in the conclusion of the series. Any follower of the series knows that these things have to happen.
In order to follow this book, readers need to have read the prior two books in this series. It would also help to have read the Emberverse I series that started with Dies the Fire. The specific mechanics of the universe need to be understood. The basics are that one of the gas laws has been changed and gas can only attain a lower pressure before it stops increasing, thus reducing the explosive force of many things such as gunpowder that rely on the additional pressure to function. There is also a conductivity change that prevents the production and use of electricity.
I have been a fan of this series since Dies the Fire came out. The characters are well written and it is easy to be sucked into the story. Stirling has the ability to make the commonplace exciting and to dribble out the information needed to complete the tapestry of understanding. Although this is a post-apocalyptic story, it is not the normal one. It is an end of an age tale, where one system ends and a new one arises. This is along the lines of what created Saberhagen's Book of Swords universe. It was the end of the world as we know it, but it really was for a good cause, and it makes for a good tale.
I am interested to learn more about the strange force that gives the Cut acolytes such power. There will hopefully be a greater explanation of why Nantucket was ripped out of time. I wasnít completely satisfied with the one provided in this novel. It is one of the things I hope is resolved in the final book, The High King of Montival.