When we left the first three books of S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series, a plot arc had just been finished and we’d seen how people adapted to a world without electricity, gunpowder, and steam/combustion engines. The next seven(!) books in the series take place a decade or two later, and comprise—somewhat oddly—an epic fantasy, wherein the children of the characters from the original trilogy go off on quests and fulfill prophecies and fight dark forces.

On the one hand, this is disappointing. There are lots of epic fantasies out there, and fewer technopocalypses, so it feels like Stirling is discarding what makes this series special. On the other hand, though, it’s interesting to see this series continue past the initial post-Change years… and really, fantasy is about the only direction it makes sense for it to go. And it is admittedly cool to see how some of the desperate measures put together in those early years have evolved into established institutions and ways of life that are taken for granted. (I’m a sucker for books about social change, and if these aren’t exactly the Baroque Cycle, they still have an element of that.) Plus, they do answer some of the big questions about the premise as they go along, and do so in a way that didn’t induce eye-rolling.

It’s hard for me to recommend these books, because I think that objectively they’re not really that great. But they’re to my tastes, and I liked them, and I’ll read whatever else Stirling writes in this universe.


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