My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stirling has a knack for writing books like this, and his stories seem to really stick with you over time. It had been some time since I read the books leading up to this one so I was a bit nervous about tackling this book, but I quickly found that the characters were as familiar to me after just a few pages as any of my old time favorites like Pug and Tomas from Feist’s realm. The book drew me right in and did a good job of keeping me engaged and invested in the characters. Once the story got rolling I had a hard time tearing myself away which in one instance led to my almost being late coming back from break at work. I have especially enjoyed the one thing that actually pushed my wife away from the series, that being the incorporating of the Arthurian legends into the story. There have been very few attempts at revitalizing the legends over the years that have entertained me, and this series is one of the most entertaining versions that I have run across.
One thing that really got my attention this time is the expansion of an element that he has had since the beginning of the Change series: religion. When I first started the series I was impressed by how he presented the worship of the Celtic gods, and how one of the primary groups were followers of The Craft. As I had just gotten together with my wife, who also follows The Craft, this was especially interesting to me, and in talking with her I got a good idea of how accurately he presented it in his books. What I hadn’t connected with was that he also had a group who followed the Norse gods, and while not clearly laid out as such, were for all intents and purposes, Heathen. Roll forward to this book and we have the adventuring band encounter a land recovered by Asatruar, and where worshiping the Norse gods is commonplace. The author himself called out the participation of Diana Paxson in the development of this section, and it gave me a look into what might happen if a group of Heathens banded together and founded a community.
The only thing keeping this from a full five stars for me was the conclusion. Even after reading the final chapter a couple of times it is fuzzy and not completely clear. Even so, it has me craving the next (and final?) book in the series.