S. M. Stirling’s Novels of the Change are a “truly original combination of postapocalyptic sci-fi and military-oriented medieval fantasy”* about a future where mysterious Powers removed advanced technology, and humanity rebuilds society. However, this new world is not always a peaceful one....
The spirit of troubadour Prince John, the brother of Crown Princess Órlaith, has fallen captive to the power of the Yellow Raja and his servant, the Pallid Mask. Prince John’s motley band of friends and followers—headed by Captain Pip of Townsville and Deor Godulfson—must lead a quest through realms of shadow and dreams to rescue Prince John from a threat far worse than death.
Meanwhile, across the sea, Japanese Empress Reiko and Órlaith, heir to the High Kingdom of Montival, muster their kingdoms for war, making common cause with the reborn Kingdom of Hawaii. But more than weapons or even the dark magic of the sorcerers of Pyongyang threaten them; Órlaith's lover, Alan Thurston, might be more than he appears.
From the tropical waters off Hilo and Pearl Harbor, to the jungles and lost cities of the Ceram Sea, a game will be played where the fate of the world is at stake.
In this richly detailed fourth installment (after Prince of Outcasts) of the Rudi's Children subseries set in Stirling's long-running Emberverse world, it has been 46 years since the Change, when technology failed and gods and their magic returned to the Earth. Crown Princess rlaith Arminger Mackenzie of the High Kingdom of Montival and her armada arrive in the Kingdom of Hawai'i along with Reiko, Empress of Dai-Nippon, in hopes of forging an alliance against Korea and the terrible powers that control it. rlaith's brother, Prince John, has fallen in the assault on Carcosa. His comrades have found his body, but sorcery has trapped his spirit far away, and they must travel the otherworld to alternate histories to reunite his soul and flesh. With the series very much underway, this probably isn't the place for new readers to dive in, but Stirling does include a good deal of backstory, including relevant history, customs, and religion where appropriate. He is equally able in his descriptions of beauty and horror, giving this work a broad emotional palette.
I would have preferred less of the book being devoted to John's rescue, and more describing the interaction among the parties involved in defeating the Korean fleet.
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