Book Review: Tears of the Sun

This installment in the Emberverse series adds depth to the narrative, further develops familiar friends, introduces new characters, and contains a hero’s death. Mild spoilers.

Book:  Tears of the Sun
Author:  SM Stirling
Publish Date:  September 2011
Sample Chapters
Buy the book:  Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Author’s Yahoo Group
Previous PNC coverage of SM Stirling: Author’s Books Change Opinions About Paganism
WitchVox article:  Creating a Wican Tribe

Background on the series:  A mysterious event happens across the globe that results in 90% of the population dying within one year through starvation and disease. Electricity, gun powder, cars, all the things that make modern life possible stop working. These books could have come across as grim, but the author focuses on how humans band together and not only survive, but thrive in this new world they find themselves in. The books contain classic fantasy elements, but the setting and the characters are not. They are your friends and neighbors and is set in towns you live and work in.

Those that survive The Change (as the event becomes known) band together in small, isolated groups and form new, surprising cultures. After living through the horrors of those early days, people push their immediate past into the land of myths and mine myths for ways to reinvent their lives. A professor of medieval history and his SCA friends use feudal England as a model for a new society. It turns out being handy with a sword is valuable in a world where guns no longer work. A soldier turned devout monk is elevated to Abbot and the abbey becomes a fortress to guard the flock from roving bands of cannibals. Teenagers infatuated with Tolkin grow into serious scouts and caravan guards as the Dundain Rangers. Iowa, due to its ability to feed its population, becomes the most powerful area left in the old United States. Bib overalls and a feed cap become the dress of the upper class and Farmer is a title of respect. An Army officer in Boise dreams of holding the United States together and preserving the Constitution, but instead recreates the Roman Legions. A pseudo-Celtic clan is formed in Oregon when a community coalesces around a Wiccan coven with a Bard and powerful witch as a High Priestess. The Lakota once again follow the ways and Gods of their ancestors and the buffalo number in the millions.

 Tears of the Sun takes place 25 years (and 7 books) after The Change. The main hero, Rudi Mackenzie, has fulfilled his quest to find the fabled Sword of the Lady, but now he has a war to fight and win. The maxim “As above, so below” is lived out as the Gods – all of them – walk the earth and weigh in on the war. After all, the fight is really Theirs being played out among men. The book follows the leaders of the Dundain Rangers as they plan a daring rescue in the very heart of enemy territory and goes back in time a bit to cover the events happening back in the newly formed High Kingdom of Montival (formerly the NE Untied States and parts of the Midwest). Much needed information is filled in and the plot action helps advance the series, but it isn’t the action scenes that steal the show in Tears of the Sun – it’s the death of a main character and the development of another.

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