Friday, August 21, 2009

The Sword of the Lady by S. M. Stirling (review)

Title: The Sword of the Lady
Author: S. M. Stirling
Illustrator: N/A
Pages: 496
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Sti
ISBN: 978-0-451-46290-9
Cost: $25.95 (available August 25th, 2009)

Stirling pulls it off again. Then goes a step further.

First, a little background. Rudi (aka Artos) and his merry band are on a quest to find a sword. His band consists of a religious man, a princess, and knight of sorts that loves the princess. His horse Epona is a bit like a familiar. The evil forces working against Rudi include an evil wizard of sorts and his living, though zombie-like, army.

Sounds very much like a typical fantasy novel, right? Wrong. This "basic" plot line takes place in a future world that has roots in our past. When the Change occurred in 1998, the laws of physics changed. Which means that the internal combustion engine stopped working, gunpowder fizzled, and electronic devices died. Fast forward a generation and Rudi is leading a band of young adults that only know of these things (like television and cars) through stories told by their elders.

And while this is all very exciting for a Stirling fan or a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, the book does have a few faults. Namely, the addition of some new groups of people at the end of the book. The Norrheim folk and the Moorish sailors appearance feels like a last minute addition. I'm sure they will be fleshed out a bit in the next book, The High King of Montival, but they feel a little too shallow here. And of course, the very, very end was exciting, but a little disjointed at times. I think it's the presentation of the visions, but the scene is short enough to not be much of a bother.

Aside from these minor flaws, I have to say this is one of my top three favorites in this series. Island in the Sea of Time and Dies the Fire are clearly tops for me because they present the reader with the beginnings of an epic story. The Sword of the Lady is great in that it keeps the story real (I got a little misty-eyed when a main character died) and it links the two story arcs together. No, I'm not going to ruin it all for you and blab on how they are linked, but it was very touching.


Tia Nevitt said...

Wow; this one sounds really good. The idea of physics just not working any more makes me wonder, "how?" And that makes me curious to read.

TK42ONE said...

Tia - Since I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before or not, this is the sixth book in a nine book arc (twelve if you count an earlier trilogy that takes place on the "other side" of the Change). The laws of physics changing is quite interesting, especially when they start to discuss it. I'm not smart enough to understand it, but I do think a "no guns" change makes it more fun to read. I'd start with "Dies the Fire" which starts with the Change and the immediate impact of it. You can find out more on his website -

Kelsie said...

I don't know, I've lost belief in the characters a little by this point. Island in the Sea of Time was excellent - the reality of modern characters shone through, giving life to the "unreal" plot twist of time travelling. "Lady" on the other hand, seems more like a historian's dream world, where every person wants to be part of a historical society too! I just don't buy the characters anymore, and everything seems a little to flamboyant, the technology is no longer as impeccably researched and explained, and military side is no longer as precisely portrayed.

TK42ONE said...

Kelsie - I agree there were times in the series (especially with the more recent books) when things got a bit odd. I think for me what threw me off was the introduction of the more mystical aspects. I think Stirling left things open to include magic of some sort, but I still can't be sure if there actually has been magic used. In the end, it is odd at times, but with the recent link between the Nantucket series and the Change series.

sparkly said...

I have to agree with you: The Moors at the end seemed like one-too-many bizarre obstacles for me, the death of what's-his-name was unexpected, certainly, but he lost me with the whole mystical/mythical ending. It felt very deus ex machina, and overly contrived. It also smelled too much like Piers Anthony's Incantations of Immortality series with its personified incantations of death, fate, war, etc. I was disappointed with the ending, although I did like the book up to that point. I'll have to hang in until the next episode is out. *hangs head, weeping*