The Given Sacrifice, by S.M. Stirling

I love S.M. Stirling‘s Change series.  I enjoyed the first trilogy, seeing people pulling together despite incredible adversity after the collapse of civilization as we know it, and I enjoyed the later transition to a more classical epic and mystical fantasy adventure with post-apocalyptic trappings.  But I did not like how slowly the story moved along in the later books.  I’ll do my best not to spoil anything, but once you get close to the end of the second Change series you’ll understand what I mean; Stirling’s story doesn’t move quite as slowly or impenetrably as Jordan‘s Wheel of Time once did, but the comparison of pace is almost appropriate.  Despite the trudging sense of gradual story progress, I still really liked the story that was being told.  And I’ll freely admit that Stirling at least made good use of the pace to lay the foundation for elaborate and interesting future story developments and character interactions.

All of this is meant by way of comparison: after the previous few books in the series, The Given Sacrifice moves like lightning.  The characters forge ahead at full speed, even as nearly all of their previous adventures are called back to our attention in a rapid-fire barrage that just helps to anchor our sense of the heroes’ earlier accomplishments.  And the second half of the book seems to move faster than that, if that’s even possible.  I almost felt as though I’d gotten plot-whiplash.  It was actually rather refreshing to find things moving so quickly, though what I’d like most is if Stirling could perhaps find some sort of middle ground in his next few books.  In the end, despite the sudden change of pace, I have to say that this was a fitting and good finish to its section of the series.  More on why after the break.

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Goddess of the Ice Realm, by David Drake

Once again I have grabbed hold of a David Drake book by the lapels, roughed it up, and shaken it until all the delicious story-bits come out.  Goddess of the Ice Realm continues the formula that David Drake has found so successful previously, returning to his excellently conceived Roman / Greek / Atlantean setting and pitting the heroes against multiple enemies serving one greater terrifying threat.  There are few innovations in this addition to the series, and most of the storylines will feel familiar to those who have read the previous books of the series, but if you like the characters and enjoyed the previous books you’ll almost certainly like this one too.

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Mistress of the Catacombs, by David Drake

Mistress of the Catacombs is the fourth book in David Drake‘s Lord of the Isles series.  Published in 2001, it continues to deliver on the promise of the first few books.  I’m not sure I have new words to describe the delightful admixture of classical influences that form this heady concoction of Roman and Greek culture and technology, Sumerian religion, and ancient Mediterranean magic.  Suffice to say that it comes across with an appropriately Atlantean feel, and *itty bitty spoilers* that the various wanderings through other worlds never break the feeling of the world(s) that Drake has created.  Magic is powerful and scary, and this is made clear not just by the ways in which people react to it but also through the consequences of people’s use of magic.  And more than ever before in this series, Drake makes clear his own thoughts about violence as a solution to your problems.

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Servant of the Dragon, by David Drake

Servant of the Dragon is the third book in the epic fantasy series Lord of the Isles, written by David Drake.  Published in 1999, it is a excellent sequel and addresses the few issues that I previously had with the series while continuing the better traditions of the first two books.  I recommended the series before, I recommend it even more strongly now.  If you want to dive into a fantasy setting built on the sunken ruins of an Atlantean past, constructed from the stones of Sumerian mythology and mortared with Greek and Roman poetry, this is the series for you.

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Queen of Demons, by David Drake

Queen of Demons is the second book in the Lord of the Isles series, printed in 1998.  David Drake continues to show that he knows his craft, with this sequel giving a suitably dramatic follow-up to the beginning of the epic.  This time I wasn’t skeptical at all, and I was right not to be.  That musty scent of genuine historic fantasy setting, cobbled together from the corpses of bits of real history, takes life once more.

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Lord of the Isles, by David Drake

I had always thought of David Drake as a military sci-fi author.  He has a long history of writing exactly that, with Hammer’s Slammers and Northworld being the examples I’m most familiar with.  So when I came across Lord of the Isles while browsing his wikipedia page, I was a little surprised.  A renowned sci-fi author tries his hand at epic fantasy?

I shouldn’t have been skeptical. Continue reading