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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some very good stuff, and some not so much (spoilers!)
"The Sword of the Lady" continues the story of Rudi MacKenzie and his band of questers as they cross what was the United States, heading towards Nantucket, so that Rudi can both find, and be transformed into, the Sword of the Lady. First, they have to extricate themselves from a situation in Iowa, and continue to avoid the Cutters and find allies as they progress toward...
Published on October 6, 2009 by Sophia

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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Treading Water... again
Stirling writes his usual multiplicity of cultures, warfare, religions and so forth so it was interesting and even fun in that regard. The really frustrating part of this was the book blurb leading you to expect you're going to get a LOT further in this story than you will. There is a slight spoiler alert here, although I won't tell you what happened other than this: You...
Published on October 26, 2009 by A. Barger


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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Treading Water... again, October 26, 2009
By 
A. Barger (Palm Springs, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Sword of the Lady: A Novel of the Change (Change Series Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
Stirling writes his usual multiplicity of cultures, warfare, religions and so forth so it was interesting and even fun in that regard. The really frustrating part of this was the book blurb leading you to expect you're going to get a LOT further in this story than you will. There is a slight spoiler alert here, although I won't tell you what happened other than this: You don't get to Nantucket until about the last 5 pages of the book and then nothing is really resolved. I get annoyed when I get the feeling the author is intentionally dragging out a series to sell more books. I wondered a bit after "Scourge of God" and this one left me even more frustrated. I've abandoned series mid-stream in the past because of this and I'm approaching that point again. Get on with it, already.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Steadily declining from a wonderful start, February 23, 2010
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"Dies the Fire" was a brilliant new direction after Stirling finished the Island series, but the story arc hit some real absurdities in "Sword of the Lady". A lot of book space gets allocated to trivial side stories that do nothing to enhance the reader's mental imagery or understanding of the world. But that is the style of many writers today who have confused quantity with quality; Stirling shares the trait with other writers such as David Weber.

I was even on-board with the gradual introduction of fantasy elements into what started as a straight science-fiction book. But the ending of the book was wholly implausible, and seemed like a desperate attempt to mash together a supernatural and super-scientific solution to both the Change series and the Island series. Stirling would have been a lot better off if he'd never attempted such an explanation, because it's so full of holes that it renders the series meaningless. Now I'm in no hurry to finish the series at this point, I'll wait until the paperbacks are down to the $1 level.

I wonder if Stirling is feeling his own mortality and projecting into his writing? Many sci-fi and fantasy authors succumb to this trait, creating their own religious or technological "afterlifes" and dwelling endlessly upon them. Sometimes they still manage to create entertaining or challenging stories within that context, but often it just ends in the equivalent of sappy wishful thinking that is far from engaging or enlightening.

Sorry, it could have been so much better ...
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How could such a brilliant premise have turned out so poorly?, December 14, 2009
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I loved the first Change series (DTF) books. I was held fast from beginning to end. But in the second series (Sunrise Lands, etc) things have only gone down hill. The content is mind-numbingly hard to swallow- from Wicca to all of the "girl power" it was hard to keep reading these books. I could understand the MacKenzies being some sort of post-Wicca nature cult, but why are there Wiccans literally EVERYWHERE? Give me a break! Secret covens all over the midwest? Has the author ever been to the midwest? I found the Norrheimers paganism a little bit less irritating, as it reflects actual paganism (the violence, drinking, coarseness, etc), but people who could be killed by bandits or a farming accident any second without warning putting their spiritual stock in some decadent reflection or bourgeois America's homage to their pre-Christian ancestors with no modicum of historicity whatsoever makes my eyes roll till I get a headache. If you want to write about pagans, don't forget the animal and human sacrifices, the sexual rituals, the beastiality (which Stirling describes in Island in the Sea of Time), and all those other little non-PC bits that make it all plausible.

The girl power doesn't bother me in principle- I married a woman with a career- but in this time and place it seems absurd. We know that female equality cannot exist without the birth control pill. That is what spawned the sexual revolution, women's liberation, etc. If sex meant babies the female characters would put a little more thought into who they slept with than they do in these books. Also, the notion that women could be soldiers equal to men (pre-gun powder) is insane. If Stirling thinks that women are "quicker" than men- or even have the capacity to be so in a general sense- he doesn't know much about human physiology. Speed (or power) are types of muscular strength. If women had to fight men with swords, they wouldn't stand a chance at actually mastering the techniques, let alone being the "best" in the world (Tiphaine and Astrid) save for their lack of brawn. Stirling obviously has never wielded a sword before, which isn't his fault, but it seems that if he asked anyone about sword fighting at all it was probably some silly SCA re-enactor from the local Renaissance Festival. Our contemporary values about gender equality are the result of affluence. They are luxuries. Luxuries that people without electric lights and cars cannot afford.

My final critique is his choice of mysticism. This is a spoiler, but ought to be predictable so the reader can make the call about reading this or not. In the end, the metaphor the "goddesses" give Rudi is that there are "forces of order" and "forces of entropy" at play and he and his friends and magical sword are all on the side of order and the CUT is on the side of chaos. This seems like a bizarre metaphor because if anything, the CUT is all about order and Rudi and his pseudo-Irish pals are all about chaos! The CUT wants to unify North America under one authoritarian government with one state religion. While they may not be the nicest guys around, and have done some terrible things, this cannot be called "chaotic". If he wanted to go the "cosmic struggle" route, Stirling should have picked a more apt (and less hackneyed) metaphor.

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed his first three Change novels, just as I enjoyed the first two Nantucket novels. I think that no one has better settings or premises than Stirling. He creates really ingenious events and situations to make an adventure story more viable to the modern person. But when everything has to be PC and reflect our values entirely, he ruins the whole beautiful, exciting world that he created.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What the heck?, January 25, 2010
I am a huge fan of S.M. Stirling's work and thought the premise for the Change + Nantucket stories very interesting. But the series has really started to fall apart for me with all the mumbo jumbo religious crap. I read a lot of fantasy and can deal with some mysticism. What is irritating and off putting about all the religion in this series is the implausibility of it. The idea that after only 24 years a large segment of the remaining population would be speaking in pseudo gaelic and ELVISH (come on), with constant invocations to mostly forgotten deities is utterly ridiculous. And the pageantry and reversion of the PPA back to feudalism is equally preposterous- no woman in their right mind is going to willing go back to the cote-hardie. How Rudi and Co. sweep across the country effortlessly changing societies and converting people to their ways is completely unbelievable. Finally, and this is the thing that made me put down the book 1/2 way through- the war cries that everyone shouts out before they start kicking ass and taking names. I mean really, they are embarrassing. Just like anyone else, while I am reading I am playing the movie in my head and I just cannot see the characters realistically shouting "Flame LIght! Flee Night" or"Face Gervais, Face Death". It just makes the whole read seem like a Monty Python skit. I haven't given up on SM Stirling but I do hope he gets back to his exceptional craft, and soon.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Series of Disappointments, December 16, 2009
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Mr Sterling is a better writer than this. Unfortunately, he has decided to spend most of his time preaching about the truth and beauty of the Wiccan religon, and very little time on the story itself. By skipping over the pulpit pounding, which he has been doing for the last 3 books in this long series, this novel is reduced to a novellette at best.
By the time the reader has finished the first 3 works of the Change Series, we have enough understanding of the Wiccans to get by. If he had spent the same amount of time preaching the wonders of Christianity, Islam, or Hindu Polytheism, this series would have been a dismal failure. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series (with the Wiccan references), liked the 2nd book (while become irritated by them), and enjoyed the 3rd book (despite them.) But enough is enough. Please, sir! Get back to what you do so well.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars irishlad, May 20, 2010
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Ah, I wish I could rate this better. S.M. Stirling is suffering, as is David Weber, from an extremely severe case of "Tom Clancyitis", which is marked by an extreme tendency to be smitten with one's own writing. Stirling, as Weber and Clancy, is in desperate need of an editor with the cojones to tell him that readers prefer crisp, clean, unmuddled, unpretentions prose(See author Zoe Sharp and her "Charlie Fox" series for how it's done.) that moves the story along. We spend 90+% of the book getting to Nantucket only to have one of the poorest, "Bring it to a rapid end" meanderings and a most unsatisfactory "resolution" of finally getting the "Sword of the Lady". After rereading the ending three times, I am still very confused as to what happened, although the only "clear" thing is that Rudy now has the Sword of the Lady. What has happened to his companions is extremely unclear. Stirling, you owe us big time.

My advice: Go to your local library, skip to the last 20 pages of the book and read those pages. You'll have as much understanding of what happens without all the pagan clap trap that Stirling insists on boring us with that fills much of the rest of the book. If you need it for your "collection", buy it when it becomes a remainder. I got mine for $7.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some very good stuff, and some not so much (spoilers!), October 6, 2009
By 
Sophia (the Pacific Northwest) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
"The Sword of the Lady" continues the story of Rudi MacKenzie and his band of questers as they cross what was the United States, heading towards Nantucket, so that Rudi can both find, and be transformed into, the Sword of the Lady. First, they have to extricate themselves from a situation in Iowa, and continue to avoid the Cutters and find allies as they progress toward Nantucket.

Some really good stuff here - Mathilda gets a chance to demonstrate her political acumen, and she IS good, better than anyone else, except, possibly, her mother. Ingolf reconciles with his family, in a totally believable and affectionate fashion. We get to see how the Change impacted yet another insular group, this one in Northern Maine, as well as running into some post-Change antagonists, who aren't the Cutters - with a nice tie-in to one of his short stories. Plus, the Cutters are slightly humanized, at least one of them is. Ignatius gets to demonstrate why he came along. Major progress is made in the Rudi/Mathilda relationship. Edain might even get a girl. Odard reveals hidden depths. We also get just enough "back at the ranch" insight so as not to lose touch with those people, without dragging down the pace too much. Great glimpse of Sandra, especially.

Oh, and some of the best meal descriptions ever. I swear I gained ten pounds just reading this book!

Here's why I didn't give it five stars:

- Rudi is in perilous danger of becoming a male "Mary Sue." He's handsome, charming, a deadly fighter, good at intrigue, in short, a Great Hero and close to perfect in every way. He'd be a lot more likeable with a blind spot or a fault or two.

- We get that he's going to die young. No need to go on (and on and on and on and on) about it.

- WTF is up with Mathilda and Signe suddenly becoming homophobic? Signe was a card-carrying LIBERAL. Liberals who are vegetarians and pacifists don't up and develop full-blown cases of homophobia twenty years later, especially homophobia directed at women - and no one is bugged by male homophobia? Oh, please. Mathilda grew up with Tiphaine/Delia and all of a sudden she finds Ulfhild creepy? Oh, please - times two.

- Edain more or less vanishes for the whole of the story. He gets a cameo when it comes to getting laid or shooting arrows (how Freudian!), but no more

- Constant references to male upper-body strength and what a Big Deal it is for fighters. Clearly, all female martial artists died out at the Change. Obviously, he's never heard of a naginata, or any of the arts that use great strength against the wielder.

- Constant references to how introspective people were pre-Change and how weird it is. The same independent thought occurs to about seven people during the novel. Hammer, beaten over head with. Repeatedly.

- Male leadership is an accepted norm and women appear just THRILLED TO BITS to just run kitchens and tend babies. Yeah, right. Clergywomen vanish. Female leaders, except in Dun Juniper, and except as regents for MALE minor child vanish. Mary, Ritva, and Eilir apparently don't mind stepping aside for their younger, MALE siblings. Mathilda continues to be the token female exception, but even she will be Rudi's consort - Lady Protector, yes, but his High Queen Consort.

- The question of what faith Rudi and Mathilda's eventual child will be raised in is completely ignored. That's a HUGE issue. Will he let the child be raised Christian? Will the child be accepted if pagan? Not addressed at all.

- Virginia/Victoria seems to exist to interject a cranky comment and to be Fred's love interest. Very dull.

- Stirling needs an copy-editor. I found several embarrassing typos.

Overall, a good, engaging read and I'm definitely looking forward to "The High King of Montival." Just wish this story was a bit tighter.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bad Similes and Primogeniture, January 28, 2010
By 
C. F Fulbright (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I liked the first five books, and I like the storyline in this sixth book. I have two problems with the current release.

First, Stirling must get paid by the word. I've always felt this way about his books. He waxes on without any addition to plot, fleshing out of character, or even philosophical expansion. His use of simile has been a long-running joke in our family as my son and I listen to the books on audio. Here are just a few examples:

- like men who find themselves clutching something in the dark and feel the wiggling of too many legs
- like some small animal in a trapper's toothed steel
- like the tongue of a frog spearing a fly
- like a hammer on hard wood, as regular as a carpenter's
- like tumbling coins of ruddy copper or a swirl of butterflies fashioned from flame

But more fundamentally, I'm disappointed in this latest book to see the return of Stirling's evident preference for primogeniture as the best means of picking leaders. It happened in the first trilogy where the Bearkillers picked a male baby with regent mother to replace the leader, even though he himself claimed to prefer democracy. It's now happened again in Iowa, with another male baby and regent mother to take over for a dead "bossman". The second son of the dead Boise leader says, "My dad always wanted to unite the country," leaving aside that his father most wanted to restore a democracy rather than a succession.

The books are fine, notwithstanding these issues.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Diminishing Returns, March 22, 2010
The series has gone from excellent to tired.

I had gotten over Stirling's obsession with wicca, a hippy fruitcake becoming Henry the V and an evil professor of medieval history facing longbow-armed hordes insisting on keeping his forces clad in mail even though he had plenty of hydraulic power for 10 years and plate harness can be turned out in 1/10th the time as a mail hauberk, because it is the "12th century french" way of doing things...even though the french got their a**es repeatedly kicked for doing the exact same thing. All forgiven, because of a great story. However, the next series has gotten from bad to worse.

This is the most disappointing so far of the "Rudy Series". The other characters have become bit players in the saga of Rudi's greatness. The series has been long on detail on their 2 year saga, up until this one. Now, after dragging though pages and pages of inner thoughts and exposition, we seemingly teleport ourselves halfway across the country. What? We get the utmost detail from Oregon to the midwest, as if Stirling hiked it himself, imagining what the intrepid companions would've done...then, he gets to Chicago, says "bugger this", and hops a plane to Maine. I really got over the increasing level of Rudy's personal heroics; I suppose that since we've suspended belief for the change in the first place, suspending belief for everything else should just fit right in.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decreasing Returns..., October 26, 2009
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The first half of this novel is 80% exposition...inner thoughts and conversations...before we Get On With It. At this point, I continue to buy and read these novels of the Change because I WILL FINISH THEM! But the quality of writing and level of engagement in the narrative has seriously plummeted since the fist two sets of three ("dies the fire" and "island in the sea of time" trilogies). Much work, little reward.
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