Monday, August 25, 2014

Lord of Mountains by S.M. Stirling

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Rudi Mackenzie, now Artos the First, High King of Montival, and his allies have won several key battles against the Church Universal and Triumphant.  But still wars rages on, taking countless lives, ravaging the land once know as the United State of America.  Artos and his Queen, Mathilda, must unite the realms into a single kingdom to ensure lasting peace.

If the leaders of the Changed world are to accept Artos as their ruler, he will need to undertake a quest to the Lake at the Heart of the Mountains, and take part in a crowning ceremony - a ceremony binding him to his people, his ancestors, and his land.

Then, once he has secured his place and allegiances, Artos can go forward, and lead his forces to the heart of the enemy's territory....

Book nine of the Emberverse series, and it doesn't look like it will end any time soon.  The tenth book is already out, and at some point in time I really do need to get my hands on it.  Lord of Mountains opens with the ongoing battle with the Church Universal and Triumphant, CUT.  CUT is still being controlled by Sethaz, the son of Theodore Kaczynski, yes the UNABomber.  Of course it appears that a darker power is actually in charge of Sethaz.  A Power opposite of those that anointed Rudi at his birth, and the ones who helped him find The Sword of the Lady.

Rudi and his allies, which there are many now, beat back the CUT forces, and set them running.  It's not as easy as I'm making it sound, and countless men and women lose their lives in the fighting, but it's war so you have to take the long view of things.  Everyone understands that CUT is not gone forever, that Sethaz is still at large, and that the dark powers are still at work.  But right now it's time for Rudi and Mathilda to finalize the allegiances and bonds they have made.  It's for that reason that they journey to the lake, at  it's here that we are given a sneak peek at what the future holds for them.

I'm still not sure I liked that peek into the future.  It took some of the tension out of the air for me, since I knew certain people have to remain alive for the events to happen.  I guess I should consider it a good thing, but I like to have a certain level of unpredictability in my fantasy reading.  At that is my only real criticsim of this book.

Okay, I take that back.  I do have one other negligible gripe, but it's so small, I almost didn't mention it.  When I reviewed The High King of Montival, book eight in the series, I mentioned home the old guard has given away to the new crop of characters.  And it's not like I don't like them, but I wish Mike Havel would have never died, and that Juniper, Eric, Signe, Sandra, the Huttons, and the various other characters that page hogged the first books, would get more page time now.  Those were the characters that got me hooked, and some of them haven't been seen in ages. And now, judging from the synopsis of the next book, this generation of characters is about to take a back seat to their children.  So if Rudi, Mathilda, Father Ignatius, and the rest of their contemporaries are about to be confined to the B bench, what happens to the first group of characters?  I understand series move on, and focus changes, but this series has an over abundance of great characters.  I just wish some of the old timers were still getting their due.

The other point I wanted to touch upon, and it's not one I've made before, but in general, I like the way the author has included gay characters into the series.  Some of the societies treat their gay members better than others, but for the most part, they are included in society, and many hold serious positions of power.  There are numerous gay Mackenzies, but none of them are major characters.  They are accepted and celebrated, and nobody treats them any different.  There is Dr. Aaron Rothman, who is part of the Bear Killers.  Mike Havel saved him during the first migration period after the Change.  This book marked his first appearance in ages, I'm just glad the guy isn't dead.

The Portland Protective Association has the most visible gay characters though.  It's a culture that is dominated by feudal rules and laws, and is heavily influenced by the Catholic Church.  Gay men and women are frowned upon, but considering the characters we are talking about here, nobody will ever say or do anything about it.  Tiphaine d'Ath, is just about the most dangerous and feared women of all the series, and I'm pretty sure nobody wants to be on her bad side.  She is on the good guys side, but even her allies are afraid to step on her toes.  Her lover, Deliah, who is a Wiccan priestess, is admired for her grace and beauty.  Of course those around her don't know she is of the craft.  Of course it helps that she is married to Rigoberte, Baron Forest Grove and Marchwarden of the South.  It's a marriage of convenience since Rigoberte is gay as well.  It gives them both cover, and produces heirs.  And it's created a huge friendship between the three of them.

I'm still waiting for the series to focus on a gay character for a while.  Maybe Rudi's heir could be gay.  He is a Mackenzie so it's not as if he would have a problem with it.  Since I doubt that will happen, I'll have to contented with the gay characters who are there.  Of course in order to enjoy them, I need to get off my ass and get book ten, The Given Sacrifice.  And book eleven, The Golden Princess, comes out later this year.

Other Books In The Series:

Dies the Fire
The Protector's War
A Meeting at Corvallis
The Sunrise Lands
The Scourge of God
The Sword of the Lady
The High King of Montival
The Tears of the Sun


Man of la Book said...

Great review, I have to start reading fantasy at some point. I tried numerous times but failed miserably.

The Reading Frenzy said...

Hi Ryan, I'm not totally caught up on this series but I have enjoyed it. It looks like its time to get cracking
great review thanks!