The Tears of the Sun by S. M. Stirling (Emberverse, Book 8 )
Read by Todd McLaren
Length: 22 Hrs 55 Min
Genre: Post Apocalyptic Fantasy
Quick Thoughts: While The Tears of the Sun serves as a transitional novel in the series, it contains a series of interesting interlocking stories, and some great characters both new and beloved.
For me, some of the hardest reviews to write are those of the latest editions of long running series, specifically fantasy/sci-fi series. First off, you cannot just review the book on its own merits. The book needs to be evaluated not just on its own, but how it stands up to the rest of the series. Sure you could talk about it as a standalone, but it really doesn’t do a service to anyone. Fans of the series would like to know how it moves the series along, and those who aren’t regular readers of that series need to understand that they will be meeting characters who have already been well established involved in situations that have been occurring for a while, and to attempt to just jump right in would leave them disoriented. There is another pitfall to reviewing long running series, and that is the reader comes into the book with certain expectations. The reader has become invested in this world and it’s easy to find yourself either desperately wanting the latest edition to be good, or having such high expectations that it would be hard for the author to meet them. The Tears of the Sun is the latest in SM Stirling’s Post Apocalyptic Fantasy series, that began eight books ago with Dies the Fire. It revolves around a world where suddenly the laws of physics are changed and all electrical and chemical reactions that allow for modern technology have been halted. This of course, leads to a major die off of the earth’s population, and a drastic change in the earth’s social order.
First off, I should admit that I love the world that Stirling has created with this series, which has been named the Emberverse series. The Change, as the phenomena that ended technology is called, has done more than just alter the physics of the world, but has brought some level of supernatural with it as well. Now, this isn’t the all encompassing magic that we see in many fantasy series, but something more subtle and personally to the individual survivors. Stirling uses religion as the tool of this new magic, allowing the beliefs and gods of religions old and new to have a heightened affect on the people. Tears of the Sun is definitely a transitional edition to the series, Rudy is now High King of Montival, and the story moves from his, and his fellowship’s quest for the Sword of the Lady, to the ramp up of his Kingdom’s preparation for its war with The Church Universal and Triumphant, and the United States of Boise. There is a lot of housekeeping to take care of, from the logistics of the war effort, to tying up loose story threads from the previous novels. Stirling does a great job of taking a novel that could have become a tedious attempt to move the series in a new direction and instead presently us with a series of interesting interlocking tales that serve the same purpose. Stirling also lets us get to know some new characters, while expanding on the stories of some characters that fell to the side during the quest for the sword arch. A lot of long time fans may become frustrated because Tears of the Sun doesn’t really move the story forward all that much, yet I was just happy to be back in the world Stirling has created, and am excited to see where he will be taking us in future editions.
Todd McLaren seems to serve as Stirling’s own personal narrator, and there is a reason behind it. McLaren has a talent is for multi-character tales full of many accents and styles of speaking, and Stirling’s Emberverse series definitely fits the bill. McLaren must take on everything from authentic English accents, to affected Scottish brogues. Throw in some Bhuddist monks, people speaking Sindarin, the language of the elves, and a host of other vocal hurdles and this novel needed someone like McLaren to pull it off. McLaren captures to people of Stirling’s world perfectly as well as finding the right pace for the many competing elements of the story. Tears of the Sun is not the greatest of the Emberverse Novels, but it is highly entertaining and full of great characters, both new and beloved. I for one will be impatiently anticipating the next in the series, this time next year.