Book review: Lord of Mountains

Every time I introduce a Pagan to the Emberverse series by SM Stirling, they curse my name.

This is not an unusual reaction and it’s one shared by non-Pagans, too.  I’ve lost seven copies of the first book in the series, Dies the Fire, because the persons who borrowed them from me lent them out to others.  And so on.  Then they all curse my name for turning them on to such an addictive series.  The series is addictive to Pagans because it spells out one of our fantasies – what would it be like if our religions were dominate in the community we live in?  Or at least one of the dominate religions? If our rituals, our ethics, our Gods were unabashedly the norm and seen as positive and vibrant and diverse.

The series primarily focuses on how the characters survive the loss of 600 years of technological progress after an event called The Change happens, which causes electricity, guns, explosives, and other methods of power production to stop working.  Approximately 90% of the population dies off and small bands of survivors form around charismatic leaders.  Some of those leaders are Wiccans and Heathens. Others are not.  (You’ll be amazed at what a troop of Eagle Scouts turns into)  What was the modern United States is now a splintering of isolated communities that look to the past for inspiration and knowledge of how to survive.

Book review for Tears of the Sun
Authors Books Change Opinions about Paganism

Lord of Mountains, the 9th book in this series, continues to paint our fantasy with likable and realistic Pagan (and many non-Pagan) characters set a generation after The Change.

Book:  Lord of Mountains
Author:  SM Stirling
Publisher: Roc
336 pages, Hardcover

This title will be released on September 4, 2012.

Available in hardcover, Kindle, and Nook, and audio book/CD formats.

Lord of Mountains is structured differently than any of the other books in the series.  Almost 2/3rds of the book is concentrated on a few critical days in the middle of a war for humanity’s very survival.  The remaining 1/3 is filled with short glimpses and vignettes of the aftermath.   Forming a true kingdom out of scattered and very diverse communities.  It’s also, as is often the case in this series, filled with magic.

Wiccan Rudi Mackenzie and Catholic Mathilda Arminger continue to be the main characters in this novel, but like the previous book (Tears of the Sun) Lord of Mountains is expanding on lesser known characters while it advances towards the final conclusion of the entire 10 book series.  It’s also, through dramatic scenes towards the end, opening up the series for two other  possible trilogies.  Most of the book takes place in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, which is now called Montival.

After being on the defensive and losing considerable territory, Montival, under High King Rudi and High Queen Mathilda, have won a few battles against the villains of the tale, the Church Universal and Triumphant. Now we are ready for the decisive battle, the one that could drive the invaders out of Montival. If they are successful, the dream of a united realm covering much of Central and Western US has a chance.  If not, it’s not just Montival that will suffer.  Yet even with the stakes this high unity is hard to achieve and some community leaders are willing to put personal ambition and petty arguments before survival.  Rudi and Mathilda solve this by taking part in a ritual ceremony that bind them and their descendants to the people(and the ancestors) and the land.

“The land has accepted us, the ancestors and the Powers,” [Rudi] said.  “Our blood has been bound to the land and the folk, and so it shall remain so long as our line does – unless the sea rise and drown us, or the sky fall and crush us, or the world end.”

This book is the deep breath before the final plunge, but it doesn’t feel like you’re treading water.  The battle scenes are pivotal and you relish the opportunity to get closer acquainted with minor characters who are obviously essential in the final book.  There is also a death that is heavily foreshadowed, and yet hits you like a ton of bricks.  SM Stirling is not as brutal in killing off scores main characters as George R.R. Martin, but he doesn’t shy away from it, either.  Stirling provides a valuable, and confident, service to his readers that I wish more authors would provide – he posts 1/3 to 1/2 of each book he writes online as a sample.  You can try before you buy.  You will buy.

As usual, SM Stirling delivers a rich world readers want to live in.  Fully formed and alive characters you wish you could drink a beer with or follow into battle.  Because of the diversity of cultures you experience in the series, there’s somewhere for every person to dream about, there’s a home for you in the Emberverse.  When Pagans attend festivals attendees shout “Welcome home!” to them.  Because they are home, they are where their people are.  Every time you open one of Stirling’s Emberverse books the characters shout, “Welcome home!”  These books are where your people are.

Editor’s note:  I was provided an advance reader’s copy of the book for the purpose of writing a review.  

7 thoughts on “Book review: Lord of Mountains

  1. David Salisbury says:

    Cant wait to read it! After finishing Dies the Fire I decided to pace myself and hold off before diving into the second one. When I was reading the first one, I did absolutely nothing else for the entire week because I was so enslaved by it. In other words: its a damn good series.

  2. Lamyka L. says:

    Isn’t it just wonderful? Oh and such amazing work! David you’ll love when you get to the next book… and the next… and the next… and forrrrrrevvvverrrrr hehehe

  3. Anne Newkirk Niven says:

    Just finished my review copy; Stirling is a good writer, but I wish he’d back off on obsessively describing what everyone is *wearing* all the time. I really just do not care if Lady D’Ath’s coat is ember, charcoal, or ebony, and having paragraph-long descriptions intrude in the action seems just like SCA-porn. A bit more restraint would go a long way towards tightening up the narrative. That said, the mystical passages are extremely well done and the characters are continuing to grow on me.

  4. In a Hawk's "I" says:

    Yeah, I love this series. Read the Seas of Time trilogy first, then the first three books in the Emberverse, and now I’m waiting until the series is over to collect all the remaining volumes so I can read them through all at once in a white heat. 🙂

    ~Jennifer L.

  5. joan says:

    I think people retain there religion but also embrace the religion of the books witch is pagan it is a little bit of everything I,m very happy with the feeling.

  6. Moonblade says:

    Good to hear many other readers of similar genre got as addicted as I have. Generally agree with above comments. Also, frequent rehash of previous events/time-line/characters gets old but one supposes SMS thinks a new reader needs the background. His website sample chapters are great as one waits for the library to call and so are the stories created by fans within his Emberverse. Makes one think he might give it a go… Perhaps a 60s-ish sailing/fishing New Age commune on the Apostle Islands, with some Ojibwa-Finn flavor ala Mike Havel from the UP? Missed a stop up there on the Quest East for the Sword, tho’ the battle on the ice was nice. Eager to read final two, plus, website says, a new trilogy coming re the next generation to come. Check out Peshewar Lancers and be forced to create a glossary (Hindi?!) for one book as long as for all that medieval armor, clothing and political terms I had to make for Dies the Fire series. Enjoy being entertained, intrigued and educated, even if in the somewhat arcane. Happy Samhain!

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