The Given Sacrifice by SM Stirling

It goes without saying SPOILERS

Before I comment on the parts of it zi found VERY interesting I want to briefly say while I found the book enjoyable I am a tad confused about the structuring of the plot. Basically it is split I to two parts, the first part mostly from Rudi and company's POV and the second part, The Spring Queen, over a 16 or so year period of the life of Rudi's daughter, Orlaith. The first part clearly finishes the major story arc of the Prophet's War as it ends seconds after the death of the CUT Prophet and main Conduit for the Bad ASBs. The second part is confusing for it takes place over a period well over a decade and while it does primarily come from the POV of Orlaith it does view from Rudi and Ingolf as well and clearly has nothing to do with the events of the Prophet's War that consumed the Sunrise Lands series. Given THAT ENDING is this second part more of a epilogue or is it really a prologue for what series Stirling has next in store? I mean the series has not been exclusively Rudi oriented but it introduces the reoccurring POD of two complete new characters so if they will play a part in the next books I do not know!

Perhaps it ties into the fluidity of time that is a minor theme in the series where I. The Summerlands and Nantucket time has no meaning and the spirits of the dead or ASBs allude to past and present and future.

Anyway. Spoilers.

Haha. The Founder of Mormonism made a cameo.

That is Jack London's House!

The beginning with the air glider crash echoes the beginning of DTF I think.

DAT Ending

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Damnit now more questions are made and not enough answers. So those guys were Japanese but where would they have come from other then Japan? It is heavily alluded in the series and I think Striling said himself that Japan was fairly wiped out I'm the Dieing Times. Who were those guys who allied with the Haida? What language where something that sounds like "Jun-ohe" means Self Reliance?

I mean we have already seen that beyond the CUT the Bad ASBs had influence in other cultures. We have the evil guy who was influencing the Corsairs and whose comrades were hinted as influencing the Emir of Dakar. This leads me to believe that a continuation of the series will go beyond North America and may feature a trip to Asia! Outside of Europe proper and Tasmania we have heard hints of places like "New Singapore" the Mongols and Tibetans invading China and Hinduraj in Bengal. There is the short story Ancient Blood or Ancient Enemy set about a hundred years I think after the change which takes place in Russia east of the Urals but it doesn't give any hint that their was a great battle like in North America so what comes next...
 
Nobody does anything other than act out stupid fantasy tropes, because Americans in their heart of hearts wanted to be ruled by medieval despots.
 
Ten books? Is he ever going to go back to actual AH, or has he decided that SCA disaster-porn and DrakkakakVampires sell better and require less thought?

Bruce
 
When did he ever do AH? I can't think of a single book. Stirlings was a military sci-fi writer that went into fantasy and horror.
He did bring in the ISOT trope to AH fiction, though he was inspired by Lest Darkness Fall. I suppose the closest thing he has to a steady AH series would be the Draka series but it quickly bounds off into SF with/after Stone Dogs.

If the Emberverse wiki is to be trusted there are three more Emberverse books coming out. "The Golden Princess" "Prince John" and "The Sea Peoples".
 
Well there's also the Peshawar Lancers.

I enjoy the series as popcorn reading. Let's see if he actually ends it after three, given he just jumped a LOT of years in a couple of chapters and the cast of characters is going to be different.
 
He did bring in the ISOT trope to AH fiction, though he was inspired by Lest Darkness Fall. I suppose the closest thing he has to a steady AH series would be the Draka series but it quickly bounds off into SF with/after Stone Dogs.
The Nantucket series wasn't AH. It was fantasy/military fiction.

I would argue the Draka series was never AH. It was at best steam-punk that moved into military sci-fi. Just think about it they had steam power armored car at the Battle of Gettysburg and airship bombers by 1880. And that book's Hitler was a blond with and eye patch. If it was meant to be AH what POD could possible change Hitlers hair color? Or what POD would cause canary yellow striped suits to be considered "conservative business" dress?
 
The Nantucket series wasn't AH. It was fantasy/military fiction.
It was AH in terms of ASBS. I would say the genre of AH is split between a much more focused and serious sub genre that deals with POD more seriously as well as how history develops such as Turtledove's How Few Remain and there is a more fantasy or sci if influenced sub genre that deals with things such as Time Travel and Steampunk such as Turtledove's The Guns of the South.

Well there's also the Peshawar Lancers.

I enjoy the series as popcorn reading. Let's see if he actually ends it after three, given he just jumped a LOT of years in a couple of chapters and the cast of characters is going to be different.
Though part of the overall plot is based around a Nun Who Can See The Future.
 
Well there's also the Peshawar Lancers.

I enjoy the series as popcorn reading...
Peshawar lancers would be the closest, but then again its more steam-punk than AH. Airship warships and all.


I also liked the series and gave it alot of slack until it jumped the shark with Iowa deciding a King was better that an elected Governor and the USB also deciding a Wicca King was what they wanted. And it then went all "Operation Sea lion" crazy with the Souix agreeing to join some vast Montival Kingdom. That was it for me. Unless the local library get I copy I'm not reading anymore of the series.
 
Peshawar lancers would be the closest, but then again its more steam-punk than AH. Airship warships and all.
What sort of definition of alternate history are you using where a) a universe where Earth was decimated by a cometary impact in the 19th century isn't alternate history and b) steampunk isn't alternate history?
 
If the Emberverse wiki is to be trusted there are three more Emberverse books coming out. "The Golden Princess" "Prince John" and "The Sea Peoples".
The way he's churning these out I'm rather put in mind of the writing machines in 1984, except intead of PornoSec these are just Wicca-Wank. I'm just trawling the internet for spoilers to see if King Arthur die - uh, I mean, uh, King Rudi dies. Or does he become king of the world and leap over a rainbow?
 
The way he's churning these out I'm rather put in mind of the writing machines in 1984, except intead of PornoSec these are just Wicca-Wank. I'm just trawling the internet for spoilers to see if King Arthur die - uh, I mean, uh, King Rudi dies. Or does he become king of the world and leap over a rainbow?
Oh yea. He dies. At the end. Defending his daughter from the Haida/New Guys. Actually the series is more of an Catholic Wank. England reunites with Rome, the Catholic Portland Protective Association is the single largest and influential of the Montival Federation. The only Pagan Nations are the Mackenzies, Lakotah, and Norrheim. Though the Bearkillers and Boise have influential members who are Asatru (though Tiaphanie did become an Hellenic). The rest are Methodist or some form of Protestant, but I can imagine Des Moine going Catholic if Mattilda's influence with the Regent Queen lasted. Though no clue how the Montanians of the Former CUT are doing, especially considering the final battle was waged ontop of a forsaking Ziggurant.
 
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If the Emberverse wiki is to be trusted there are three more Emberverse books coming out. "The Golden Princess" "Prince John" and "The Sea Peoples".
The way he's churning these out I'm rather put in mind of the writing machines in 1984, except intead of PornoSec these are just Wicca-Wank. I'm just trawling the internet for spoilers to see if King Arthur die - uh, I mean, uh, King Rudi dies. Or does he become king of the world and leap over a rainbow?
 
Oh yea. He dies. At the end. Defending his daughter from the Haida/New Guys. Actually the series is more of an Catholic Wank. England reunites with Rome, the Catholic Portland Protective Association is the single largest and influential of the Montival Federation. The only Pagan Nations are the Mackenzies, Lakotah, and Norrheim. Though the Bearkillers and Boise have influential members who are Asatru (though Tiaphanie did become an Hellenic). The rest are Methodist or some form of Protestant, but I can imagine Des Moine going Catholic if Mattilda's influence with the Regent Queen lasted. Though no clue how the Montanians of the Former CUT are doing, especially considering the final battle was waged ontop of a forsaking Ziggurant.
 
Note, upfront: I like the series. Really. That's what makes me bitch about the SOD-breaking and/or Plot-deflating "issues".


Spoilers!


From the top:


This book's a mess. It's a transition book, that is unfortunately juxtaposed on top of the actual finale of a seven-book plotline. The first 2/3rds is basically a short story collection, with no real connection between the scenes. The last third........<whistles>.

Remember all the secondary characters who had huge sections of text in several books, devoted to making them interesting and engaging? Most of them make cameo appearances in this. At best.

Tiphaine and the Twins (major characters, with ongoing character developments) are reduced to some snarky comments and "Dave ran by" parts in major action sequences, with one or two slower scenes where they basically do nothing.

The Squires? One action sequence, where the climax is savagely undercut by an 11th Hour Superpower.....and a truly awful cribbing of dialogue from the OTL Fellowship of the Ring movie. Stirling often does homages or "this is totally the scene from..." funny scenes.....but this was neither funny nor ironic, just ugly (a line of dialogue that kicks the legs out from under the scene he dropped it into).

Odard's younger sister, who spent a chunk of the last book dealing with her mom getting Possessed and becoming Mathilda's handmaid? Not appearing. We hear, in the last third, that she's probably getting married (pretty much in those words, and the dialogue moves on to another topic).

A new character is introduced, to handily resolve the Boise Siege. The end. Said character gets captured by the (barely mentioned to this point) daughter of Eric Larsen....who then keeps him around her as a paroled prisoner for no particular reason. At all.
Seriously, this is one of the most forced characters in the entire series (with Rudi present, that's saying something). There's no reason for him to be hanging around after they get him back to camp (or for him to survive what happens next)...other than to have yet another "Rich & Powerful Girl captures Average Joe, then marries him" story that Stirling already told (much better) in Conquistador.

Which brings us to another issue (that affects all the books): Relationships. The entire second "series" (Sunrise Lands - Given Sacrifice) could be subtitled "The Quest For New Penises!". Pretty much every female character who so much as crosses a border meets her future husband on the way. Must be some freaky version of the Westermark Effect.

More seriously, a lot of important relationship development occurs "offscreen" (i.e. Stirling didn't bother to write it).
The Twins really suffer here. We go from Mary getting turned down for sex by Ingolf, and flouncing off in a huff....and the very next major scene they share (where Ritva drags her back to camp, minus an eye) has Ingolf basically proposing marriage. That's it. There's no interval of relationship development. Blown booty call to marriage, with nothing in the middle.

Mary gets it worse. We meet the Mountie. Next scene they share, she terms him her boyfriend. Next scene they share, he's her fiancé.
For two of the characters that really did make the Emberverse interesting....that's a raw deal. I really did check my copy of the book to make sure I wasn't missing a chapter somewhere.


Back to the Given Sacrifice: I called it. Back when Rudi got a vision of his kids....way before we got the funky "future/past conference" in the last book...I prophesied that his oldest kid (Orlaith), the heir to the High Queenship, would adopt Wicca as her religion, and get the Sword. The MacKenzies are the Author Pet, and it was obvious it was going to work out that way, from the first mention of the High Kinship thing. They weren't going to have to deal with a Christian/Catholic overlord.
The fresh-out-of-the-Tridentine-Council catholics of the Protectorate, OTOH, are just fine with a Pagan overlord.
That's a whole bunch of interesting potential storytelling just swept away by authorial fiat. A mistake, IMO.

Way too many people are basically struck by Rudi's mind control rays and desperately want to be part of the High Kingdom of Mondegreen (or somesuch made up word). Rudi's (repeated) utterly matter-of-fact declarations that such and such land is now under his "totally hands off, really!" rule, with nobody ever putting in a word edgewise, for any reason, gets old. As does the overly-formal "I am king!" internal monologues that Rudi constantly engages in.

Seriously, Rudi could have been written in the same manner as Sauron, with everything he does occurring offscreen and heard about by the other characters.....and the series would be better for it. The Emberverse is awesome because of the secondary characters.


Magic: The Wiccans are now deploying actual battlefield magic, in a tactical role. If I were a Protectorate Catholic, and I saw "Random Priestess #312" actually cast a sleep spell on an enemy...and it worked....I would probably be jumping theological ship. Or knifing her. The fact that everyone else (whose clerics manifestly do not have these capabilities) just goes about their business is SoD-breaking. Either the Catholic party line is bogus (in which case you should convert to Paganism RFN) or the Wiccan spells are the work of the Devil (in which case, use the knife)......there's no middle ground for catholics. Especially the kind of catholics found in the PPA. This is glossed over, with the catholics just being really intimidated.
A Catholic Bishop is rejected (for performing an exorcism) as "too exposed to the worldliness of administration" (IIRC).....yet Juniper MacKenzie is a head of state, and arguably the most powerful of the extant magic users. Pagans 1, Christians 0. Magic is prejudiced.

Religion: The Pagan Stallion is mounting the Catholic Mare....and his oldest kid binned the Church of Rome for dancing naked before graven images. Again, not a problem for PPA catholics (SoD broken), who don't even try to extract a "..but the kids will be Christians" clause.
Half the Bearkillers became Asatruar, between A Meeting At Corvallis and The Sunrise Lands......for no particular reason (and with no hint of it before), and with no explanation other than Signe fell back on her Swedish roots.

MacKenzies outwit and outgab everyone else. They never cause problems for themselves with this. Nobody ever gets ever for it. No change there.
The one scene from The Sunrise Lands, where a wigged-out MacKenzie priestess basically bullies a PPA Baron (and thus, at least nominally a hardcore catholic) into conducting an explicit human sacrifice ritualistically (as opposed to a simple execution) "for fertile fields and luck".......Nope.


Last third of the book:

OK: I bitched a couple of books back about there not being any neo-samurai in the PNW, even though Asian martial ways are way overrepresented in the world (by historical accident). Stirling has answered my challenge (I now demand Ninjas).
I don't know where the hell he is going with this, but I'm onboard now that Rudi is dead. $10 says the Empress ends up marrying someone from Montival (*cough*John*cough*).

The battlecry of the "enemy forces" attacking the Japanese actually made me put down my iPad, leave the room, and ask the first person I encountered..."Wut?". Didn't see that coming.

The oath of blood vengeance at the end, for what was basically an accident on the battlefield, really rang false. In the next book, somebody at least should point out that Rudi's dead, going to stay that way, and doing the Pacific Campaign (with sails) to avenge him will get lots of people dead for no real reason other than revenge.

The "half decade at a time" thing really sort of fell flat, since it's basically introducing Orlaith at the expense of the developed characters.



One thing I really dislike about this series is it's utter lack of tension or human development of relationships. We only see spouses as unified teams, with one backing up the other. There's no scene of Astrid pitching crockery at Alain, or Mathilda spending a year in the "Country House" because Rudi's being totally an idiot. There's no scenes of internal disagreement between the main characters. You just end up with a "briefing scene" where the main characters deliver their verdicts/plans/wishes unto those who have little to no input, with none of the main characters going "hold up, I totally disagree with X! That's not the right way!".

That goes right back to stuff like Havel beating that one guy in front of every member of the Outfit. Leaders tend not to do stuff like this (without serious consultation behind the scenes), because it risks one or more of the other influential people in the organization stepping in to oppose you because you crossed some internal line you didn't know they possessed. It's too risky, with the potential to seriously undercut a leader's position and alienate his colleagues and subordinates. This series has to many "socratic dialogues" where characters meekly sign off on the other character's inherently controversial decisions. Stirling is a better writer than that.
 
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Past/Future Conference?
The rather heavy-handed scene at the end of Lord of Mountains, where Rudi and Mathilda (after Rudi does a reverse King Arthur with the Sword) get to see the future (along with some dead people), ending with Rudi encountering Orlaith (several decades later, from her POV, and after Rudi has been dead) and chatting with her.
 
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