Saturday, May 30

The Protector's War - SM Stirling

Eight years after the Change that removed technology and much of civilisation from the face of the earth, life is slowly achieving some normalcy, at least in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The alliance of the Clan Mackenzie, led by Wiccan Juniper, with Mike Havel's (aka the Bear Lord)Bearkillers has been advantageous for both groups. The only fly in the ointment is the Portland Protective Association, a dictatorship headed by former history professor Norman Arminger, a man who has turned the events of the Change to his advantage. The PPA ignore treaties, make raids, and extort small communities. Juniper and Mike know that war is inevitable but hope to forestall it as long as possible.
In England the Change has been devastating - though better off than most of Europe, the population has been massively diminished, few animals capable of pulling ploughs have survived, and the shock of it has affected the mental state of King Charles the Third. Now married to Queen Hallgerda of Iceland, a woman with plans of her own, Charles has become increasingly eccentric to the point of instability. Once loyal followers Sir Nigel Loring, his son Alleyne and former SAS soldier John Hordle flee England, now enemies of the crown.
The first half of The Protector's War is complex, skipping not only between continents but not strictly chronological. The pace and writing, however, more than make up for any confusion, and the comparisons between the two communities highlight the effects of the Change. There's also an unusual presence of Australians (Tasmanians, in fact) in the UK - fortunately they're not portrayed as broadly ocker as the profoundly irritating Aussie in the first of this Emberverse trilogy, Dies the Fire. Common to that novel, though, are the strong Tolkien presence, clever integration of practical with spiritual, loving descriptions of food (this is not a book to read when hungry), well-researched detail over a wide variety of areas, and strongly drawn fight scenes. This sequel is as compelling as its predecessor - so much so that, having just finished it I'm at the library ready to borrow the final in the trilogy. - Alex

The Emberverse novels of the change:
Dies the Fire
2. The Protector's War
3. A Meeting at Corvallis
4. The Sunrise Lands
The Scourge of God
The Sword of the Lady
7. The High King of Montival

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