The High King of Montival: A Novel of the Change
by S. M. Stirling
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451463524
Date: 07 September 2010 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The fourth book in the Sunrise Lands series is the voyage home part of the story. Having slogged across North America in the first three volumes, Rudi MacKenzie with his allies and friends are returning to the Northwest. During their journey, they have found love and pain. They have grown as they suffered tragedy and loss.
This novel opens with Rudi and company on Nantucket, or what was Nantucket. Now that Rudi has the Sword, things have changed on the island. It no longer has the strange areas that people get lost in and stop. Rudi begins to discover the truth about the sword and its powers immediately. A quick truce with the raiders from North Africa and they return to what was Maine. Of course, nothing is ever simple for Rudi, there is another assault being prepared by an acolyte of CUT.
After the battle, the journey home must continue, this time by rail, since it should be faster. The journey is partly an opportunity to revisit old friends and partly an old world tour. A few new surviving areas are described. At points CUT will make its presence felt. It is no spoiler to say that most of Rudiís crew will make it back to Montival. This is a standard Heroic Saga, so the Hero has to make it to the end at least. Another prominent feature is the duality of the hero and the struggle to not lose his personality to the new role.
In the West, things arenít progressing well, but they are also not as dire as they were in the prior novel. The change to the world that came with Rudi getting the Sword, allows those of power to counter the power of the CUT acolytes. The battle lines are slow moving and everyone awaits the coming of the High King.
As noted this is part of a long series and as such is not the kicking off point. Readers need to go back to the Dies the Fire trilogy to truly get an appreciation for this work. These early works are still in print and well worth the time to read. This is a decent novel, but suffers a little from the need to bridge the gap from East to West. Some things happen, but nothing that is critical to the coming confrontations. Stirling is a fine and entertaining writer, and I am sure many will enjoy this novel, even if just to get a few more insights into the Emberverse.
This series is definitely following the standard Epic Quest model. Hero goes in search of the weapon needed to overcome the great evil. Hero gains and loses friends and allies. Hero finds weapon. Hero then returns to face evil. Next the hero must gather forces and force the evil to face him. The real battle is ahead, one might even say the final battle. This is a standard trope, but it works. Star Wars, The Hobbit, and the Wheel of Time all use this basic plot. A good writer can take a simple plot and make it their own while entertaining the reader; and Stirling does this well.