The Desert and the Blade (Change Series)
by S.M. Stirling
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451417350
Date: 01 September 2015 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
As one life ends, a new begins. An old enemy has reappeared on the shores of Montival. The High King is dead, but his line continues. Following in the path of her parents, Órlaith begins her own quest to help a friend find a very special sword with the Japanese Empress Reiko.
The first part of the quest is to slip away unnoticed. This is partially achieved, but when the Queen sees that Órlaith and her friends are missing, she sends troops to get them back by land and sea. Timing is everything, a little too late and everything ends.
This isn't just a quest by the Montivalians, the Japanese are there as well. Reiko receives a series of dreams that show the history of the sword and Japan. As the past is revealed more becomes clear.
Once the disparate groups meet up, they need to go into the desert to find the missing sword. No easy task, when the area is not welcoming. There are guards, and an unsettling presence. There are also the Haida and the Koreans working to end the quest before it can begin. They will use every means available to stop the party from advancing.
The Change is 46 years in the past, and the old ways aren't coming back. Few even remember the world as it once was. The perspective of the children of the Change is very different from their parents. As each generation passes, history becomes myth and myth becomes reality. And at some point, does it even matter. The dynamics of Montival continues to be interesting. The large number of realms all have their own traditions. The area of the Kingdom continues to grow. There may be problems down the road, but the death of the High King has reforged the bonds between the groups.
This is the second novel that primarily follows the action of Órlaith and Reiko and their friends and retainers. It isn't the best starting point for new readers. The large body of work that is continuing to develop is worth reading. Each new novel builds a greater knowledge of the world. Additionally, there are now numerous stories set in the Universe.
Órlaith is growing on me. I wasn't completely enthralled by her to start with. Her indecision as it relates to her parents got to be a bit grating.
There seems to be an indeterminate number of special weapons out in the world. I expect over time, more of them will be revealed. The different aspects of these weapons, reveals more about the character of the host people and the beings that created the weapons. So far they seem to be swords, but there is nothing that limits them to that type of weapon.