It's twenty two years since the night when something altered physics, preventing gunpowder sparking or internal combustion, electricity, and steam power work. In the Willamette Valley a comfortable tension exists between the various communities that arose in the aftermath of the Change, and the future looks more secure than it has at any time since 1998.
That is until Ingolf Vogeler, a mercenary from Wisconsin, lands in Mackenzie territory. He says he's being pursued by Cutters, soldiers of a Montana-based church (the Church Universal Triumphant, or CUT), who have follow him - Ingolf is attacked that night and barely survives. When he's nursed back to health he relays a tale that begins with an expedition to Nantucket to garner pre-Change relics, and culminates in a powerful vision that he should "travel from sunrise to sunset and seek the Son of the Bear Who Rules. The Sword of the Lady waits for him."
Rudi Mackenzie, son of Juniper Mackenzie, head of the Clan, and Bearkiller the late Mike Havel, was prophesised to be the Lady's Sword. He sets off on a journey to Nantucket to seek the Sword of the Lady, accompanied by Ingolf, close friend Edain Aylward, and twins Mary and Ritva (Dunedain rangers); they are soon join by Matilda, the daughter of Portland Protectorate Association regent Sandra Arminger, her guard Odard Liu, Odard's servant Alex, and Father Ignatius, a senior priest.
Unsuspecting readers such as I might expect the journey to cover the length of the novel, but they would be mistaken. By the end of The Sunrise Lands, though much has changed, the group has travelled only as far as Boise. Indeed, like the Tolkien classic that colours many aspects of this series, the quest will cover all three of this second Emberverse trilogy.
The writing is as dense and textured as the originals, and the universe Stirling has created is increasingly fascinating. Of particular interest, and an enduring these thus far, is the influence a leader has on his or her people - the structure and driving force behind each of these diverse groups is intrinsically tied with the ethos of their creators, then taken in a direction that is both unexpected and consistent. There are a couple of moments when this is made explicit in the text like, for example, when Juniper Mackenzie explains that the kilts weren't her idea, and that the brogue adopted half mockingly by her peers has been unquestioningly incorporated into the next generation's speech patterns.
I was initially a little dissatisfied with The Sunrise Lands because, as in the very different A Question of Upbringing, I had a different narrative expectation. And, like my encounter with Powell, I've come to see that my expectation got in the way of my enjoyment of the reading. In fact, so absorbed was I that before I even finished The Sunrise Lands I borrowed the second in the new trilogy. - Alex
The Emberverse novels of the change:
1. Dies the Fire
2. The Protector's War
3. A Meeting at Corvallis
4. The Sunrise Lands
5. The Scourge of God
6. The Sword of the Lady
7. The High King of Montival