The Given Sacrifice brings the Rudi Mackenzie arc of the series to a close as Rudi and his allies close in on the Church Universal and Triumphant. The narrative covers the last battles with the Cutters, skating over the eventual defeat, and introduces characters that may become important in later books. The last few chapters cover the early years of Rudi’s daughter Orlaith and Rudi’s final battle. (I am not sure this counts as a spoiler since it has been pretty heavily implied that Rudi has a relatively short shelf life.)
I was a little frustrated with this book. There’s a lot going on, but not very much is happening as the focus shifts from Rudi to Orlaith. The big problem I think is that while this is the end of the arc, there is nothing especially climactic about the end. This is very much a transitional book without a sense of an ending or completion, despite the framing of the narrative. It’s pretty clear that with both Mike Havel and Rudi Mackenzie, Stirling was going for various flavors of the Arthurian hero-king (with some Alexander the Great riffs in the case of Rudi), but there was more of an impact with Mike’s death than with Rudi’s.
Orlaith appears to be an interesting, sympathetic character that does not seem to possess Rudi’s “supernaturally-approved hero-king,” aura that we kept getting hit over the head with throughout the arc. (Given the underpinnings of the worldbuilding, I can’t help but give it a glance askance.) It will be interesting to see where Stirling is going with this character.
Overall, I have more issues with the actual arc with its odd pacing than the book. There are some interesting exchanges between the various characters and some surprisingly moving moments. (We run into the “neo-barb Boy Scout” tribe and learn their backstory, and a little later, a former enemy is redeemed.) This is a good book, but suffers from the drawn out pacing and narrative of the previous books in this arc.