Roc, 484 pgs.
Another book where they be changing the laws of physics, and magic is afoot. (Or at least science that is indistinguishable from magic.) This is the latest of Stirling’s Nantucket/Change books where the island of Nantucket is transposed into the past, (and the past version of Nantucket is now in the present) and the laws of physics are tinkered with in the present so that firearms and combustion engines don’t work anymore. And of course, stuff happens.
Sword continues the quest of Rudi and his friends for the “Sword of the Lady” which is located somewhere on Nantucket (the prehistoric version that was switched with the modern version that was sent back in time by the mysterious phenomenon that turned off all the power everywhere.) Obstacles on the quest are the “CUT” a religious cult that is apparently literally in league with the devil (meanwhile, Our Heroes are apparently in league with the Angels,) and the Bossman of Iowa who has set Rudi a seemingly impossible task–which turns out to be not so impossible after all. (This is because Rudi ends up adopting an entire tribe of half-feral teenagers.)
There are visions, a growing romance between Rudi and Mathilde (despite all the apparent and sensible obstacles set up in the earlier books, foremost being Mattie is Extremely Catholic and Rudi is Extremely Pagan, and the Strange New World Order doesn’t Approve of interfaith marriages between monarchs/heads of state or the heirs of same for the most part) magic and mayhem.
There’s a great deal of bonding and friendship but the only romantic relationship that doesn’t seem too contrived is the one between Frederick Thurston and Virginia Kane. (To be fair, the relationship between Rudi and Mathilda isn’t contrived so much as…predictable, right down to the Classic Misunderstanding of Something Relatively Innocent on Mathilda’s part.) Our Heroes decide to hail Rudi as High King despite various political obstacles (that magically disappear) and Rudi accepts under protest. (And no one back home raises a fuss about it either for the most part except for poor Signe Havel who has been cast into the role of Jealous Queen Bitch.)
I did like this over all, though with a few reservations. For instance, I am not very fond of the various “plot anvils” that have been dropped on my head since Rudi was introduced. Stirling has thrown every Great and Mighty King legendry and symbol at the poor kid since he was a baby. (Granted, the plot anvils also indicated very strongly who or what the “Alien Space Bats” probably were, but still.)
I liked the “family reunion” between Ingolf and his brother (and his brother’s family) and the encounter with the Neo-Vikings, but could have done without the Moorish Pirates. (This is mostly because the Moorish Pirates were apparently easily fooled into thinking a priest of the CUT was actually a Muslim imam despite some pretty good evidence to the contrary. Of course, it was pretty clear that the pirates were motivated more by profit than the Prophet, and the CUT priest was definitely a Sith Lord, so they are provisionally excused for having The Dumb.) Enlisting the aid of a pirate whom they have captured and convinced that the CUT priest was one of the bad guys, Rudi and his friends make it to Nantucket and the Sword.
And this is the point where it becomes necessary to have read the Nantucket sequence of this series. No, really. For spoilery reasons that may or may not cause you to beat your head against the nearest flat surface. If you’re a long time fan of Stirling, or just a casual reader, do check this book and this series out. There are some great in-jokes in here, and the action is fast paced and fun.