Book Review: S.M. Stirling’ s The Sunrise Lands

Posted March 17, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: S.M. Stirling’ s The Sunrise Lands

The Sunrise Lands


S.M. Stirling

It is part of the Emberverse #4 series and is a science fiction, dystopian that was published by ROC on September 4, 2007 and has 464 pages.

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Other books in this series include The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include A Taint in the Blood, Council of Shadows, Shadows of Falling Night, Dangerous Women, Dies the Fire, The Protector's War, A Meeting at Corvallis, The Scourge of God, The Sword of the Lady, The High King of Montival, The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth

Fourth in the Emberverse dystopian science fiction series. This is the first in the second trilogy in the Emberverse, and it revolves around Rudi, a.k.a., Artos. It’s the fall of 2020 and twenty-two years since the EMP and twelve years since the War of the Eye in which Mike died.

My Take

It starts with a bang-up fight and death and an introduction to the pivotal character who will send Rudi and friends on their trek. It also introduces us to a grown-up Rudi, Mathilda, and Mary and Ritva among others.

“Love is like money — the more you give away the more you get back, and the more you have to give.”

The Sunrise Lands takes us back east hunting down a terrifying experience, and there’s no lack of battle or surprises along the way.

Part of me was disappointed that it’s a generation after A Meeting at Corvallis, 3, and a bigger part of me is damned grateful. I hated how A Meeting at Corvallis ended, and I did not want to have to revisit the grief it had to have caused.

The Sunrise Lands starts Rudi’s trilogy — there is that prophecy, after all.

There are chunks of back history in The Sunrise Lands. A part of Nigel’s past shows up at Clan Mackenzie along with some very welcome news. Mathilda talks about how her dad pulled his “kingdom” together after the EMP and provides some very good reasons why members of the Society for Creative Anachronism would be successful in this brave new world. The Mackenzies still honor the deaths of Aoife and Liath. Then there is the recurring bewilderment of the kids who were either very young when the world Changed or who were born after. It’s weird “listening” them talk about how odd the before times sound. That RenFaires, the Lord of the Rings, and fantasy tales of knights sound more real to them than computers, television, or Star Trek. It’s a nice touch Stirling uses to make us feel how different this world is from the technological one, but it doesn’t really work. It’s awkward.

That mesh matting Vogeler and his people use as protection sounds terrifying — and extremely practical.

There’s something odd about the people Vogeler and his people meet near Nantucket. It sounds as though there’s a time warp there. Ingolf has some split-self experiences there as he is given visions of himself in different timelines.

This trip Rudi undertakes is so useful for so many reasons. He learns other ways of governing. He learns of the other entities out there. He’s making some very good impressions all around.

Whoa, that term that Chief Juniper laid down twelve years ago after the War of the Eye that peons could leave the Association is still in force and has resulted in improved conditions. Snicker. Seems all those “lords” want someone else to work their land, ahem.

Crack me up *she says laughing*. Tiph points out that “here in the land of the Iron-Shirted Machos, and the people making the decisions at the top are nearly all women”. Be afraid, men, be very afraid, lol.

I like that a woman as vicious as Sandra loves her daughter and does her best to teach her how to rule. She’s very open and honest with her daughter. Mostly. It’s curious that Mathilda’s conscience is questioning the things her father did and her mother does. She’s worried that she’ll turn into her mother. She’s also quite impressed by how Thurston and his wife raise their family and rule their land.

Mathilda does make her confession to Father Ignatius, and it’s with a sad smile that you’ll read along. She is so earnest and her worries would warm a parent’s heart. The words Father Ignatius says to her are brilliant. Compassionate and realistic. Not what I was expecting. It’s encouraging after my worries about his thoughts about the Mackenzie religion. And his belief that his is the only correct one. I suppose when the world ends as this one did, a need to believe in something becomes more important, at least as a way to join a group for support.

Tolerance is an important topic in this story, and it comes very close to home with Boise and New Deseret. For want of tolerance, two kingdoms may fall to evil.

Too funny. Wait’ll you read how Edain learns what sept he belongs to. Not at all spiritual or mythical. More of an oy veh moment with that wolf, lol.

Astrid does drive me nuts with her insistence on speaking Elvish and translating everything into “the common tongue”. It is heavy handed and rude, but thoroughly in keeping with the sub-theme of the Lord of the Rings that runs throughout the series. It is traditional for nine to go on a quest, lol.

Impressive. Thurston and Anderson went back to Washington D.C. after the Change to rescue Cecile and Martin.

Do pay attention to the epigrams at the start of assorted chapters as Stirling goes back and forth in time. It is a tiny bit confusing, although it will make sense as you read along. It does provide background information on events that are mentioned in the current time.

The Story

It’s betrayal and ambush along with that Nantucket Voice that sends Ingolf riding for Clan Mackenzie. The news he brings will force Rudi on a trek east. Not one his mother wants him to travel, but duty requires it.

The Characters

Vogeler’s Villains

Ingolf Vogeler is a scavenging explorer now that his war is over. Only he ran into something scary in Nantucket, a voice insisting he “seek the Son of the Bear Who Rules”. Boy is his horse; Billy is his packhorse. His father was the Sheriff of Readstown in Kickapoo County in the Free Republic of Richland (what we know as southern Wisconsin). Ingolf’s brother, Edward, is now sheriff, and it’s more than Ingolf could stomach. Kaur and her brother Singh are Sikhs, formidable fighters, and first-class scouts. Jose Menendez is his second-in-command and loyal friend. Ranjeet, Smith, Alterman, Montoya, Sauer, Grey, Tommy, and Dave are more of the men in his troop.

Juanita Johnson is now Sun Hair and seems to be the leader of their tribe. She and their family (Uncle John, Aunt Sally, Mr. Granger and Lindy, the Smiths, and the kids) were cast ashore near Nantucket. Frank is the son Sun Hair and her husband lost to time.

Clan Mackenzie

Dun Juniper
Rudi Mackenzie is Juney’s son and her tanist, her heir. Rudi’s father was Mike Havel who died in A Meeting at Corvallis. Epona is still with him and just as ornery as ever. Epona has her own daughters: Macha Mongruad and Rhiannon. Juniper “Juney” Mackenzie is the chief of the clan and High Priestess to the whole Clan. She’s married to Sir Nigel Loring (he’s an armsman, one of Juney’s military advisors), and they have two daughters: Maude and Fiorbhinn. Lady Eilir is Juney’s deaf daughter, one of the leaders of the Dúnedain Rangers, and married to John Hordle with two children: Beregond and Iorlas. She’s also Astrid’s soul sister. Mabor is an apprentice bard. Judy Barstow Mackenzie is the healer and a High Priestess married to Chuck, the High Priest. One of their daughters is Tamsin, and she’s helping with Ingolf’s healing. Niamh is an apprentice from Dun Laurel and a sometime lover of Rudi’s. Dechtire Smith is a moaner.

Dun Fairfax was…
…the Fairfaxes’ farm before the Change. Now Sam “Aylward the Archer” Aylward is its lord and a retired armsman — he is in his sixties after all. Edain Aylward Mackenzie is his son. Garbh is Edain’s dog. Dick and Fand are Edain’s siblings. His half-sister Tamar and her man, Eochu, help with the farming; they have a child, Forgall. Eithne is the girl (and second-degree priestess) who’s sweet on Edain.

Sutterdown is…
…the biggest and best-walled town in the Mackenzie territory. Saba Brannigan Mackenzie is the daughter of Tom Brannigan, the mayor, High Priest, brewer, and the innkeeper for the Sheaf and Sickle. She’s standing guard that night she meets her bane. Raen was her husband, and they had two children: Ioruath and Emer. Brannigan’s wife, Moira (she changed her name from Mona) is the High Priestess. Cethern is a wagoner who will enjoy a practice bout with Ignatius.

The Dúnedain Rangers are…
…an independent troop of soldiers who hire out to escort caravans, run down bandits and bad guys, kill maneaters, carry messages and valuable parcels, and more. They are led by Eilir and Lady Astrid, one of Kenneth Larsson’s daughters, sister-in-law to Mike Havel, and the twins’ aunt. She’s married to Lord Alleyne Loring, Sir Nigel’s son, and they have three children: Diorn and the twins, Fimalen and Hinluin. Mary and Ritva are ohtar, warrior-squires. Their horses are Rochael and Duélroch respectively.

Stardell Hall was a park headquarters, now its the largest of the Ranger stations.

The Bearkillers of Larsdalen are…

…the mercenary troop Mike Havel built and is governed well by Signe, Mike’s widow, as their leader; Will Hutton has retired. Mary and Ritva are the twins and Mike and Signe’s daughters. Signe also have a son, Mike Jr.

Mount Angel is…

…a military monastery and Mother House for the order led by Abbot Dmowski. Father Ignatius is one of his spies — a priest, monk, and knight-brother of the Order of the Shield of Saint Benedict and will attach himself to Rudi’s company. Mt. Angel is growing its university, and its daughter settlements are doing well.

CORA is…

…the Central Oregon Ranchers Association, a very loosely organized and brawling group of ranchers who have allied themselves with the Bearkillers and Clan Mackenzie. Rancher John Brown is one of its leaders and strong for the Bearkillers and the Mackenzies. Mabel Brown is his second wife, and they have three children together. His ranch is the Seffridge. Smitty, Cody, Hank, and Tommy are some of the ranch hands. Some of the others don’t look kindly on witches. The blacksmith trained at Dun Carson.

His oldest son, Bob, will be moving a herd of horses to a New Deseret buyer, and the two groups — the cowboys and Mackenzies — will protect each other along the way. Mrs. Jason and her daughter manage the chuck wagon.

The Portland Protective Association (Association)

Princess Mathilda Arminger is the ruler-in-waiting for the Association; her mother, Lady Sandra, a.k.a., the Spider, is acting as regent. Agnes is a maid-cum-secretary. Lady Catherine is one of Mathilda’s chaperones.

Sir Odard Liu is a knight of the Association and seems to be a good ruler. His father was Eddie Liu, the Baron Gervais, who was killed by Mackenzies. His mother, Mary Liu, the dowager Baroness Gervais is a menace to all around her, including her son. Sergeant Gavin and Armand are some of his men-at-arms. Romarec is his steward. Alex Vinton is his very capable valet. Sir Guelf is his mother’s brother. Yseult and Huon are his younger sister and brother.

Baroness Tiphaine d’Ath, a.k.a., Lady Death, is the Grand Constable now, and still in a relationship with the now-Lady Delia de Stafford, the miller’s daughter, who is married (on paper) to a gay knight. Conrad Renfrew, the Count of Odell, is now chancellor. There’s a new cardinal-archbishop in Portland now; the Church healed the schism with Pope Leo who is now dead. Count Piotr Stavarov is still around. He’ll be appointed Marchwarden of the West. Dowager Baroness of Dayton and the dowager Baroness of Molalla (Lord Chaka Jones is her son) are formidable women.

Fulk De Wasco is just one of many who lost his duel with Tiph.

The trip to Tillamook in 2019
Rudi, Edain, Rinn Smith, and Otter Carson have come along to introduce Raen and his people to Juhel Strangeways, Lord de Netarts who is holding County Tillamook in ward for Lady Anne. Gaston Strangeways is Juhel’s son. Sir Brandic is one of the baron’s men. Haida are an Indian tribe from the north who raid for slaves.

Bend, Oregon
Mr. Denks owns the stables there that the Dúnedain frequent. Isherman sells quality weapons. Isaac and Reuben are two of his sons.


General Lawrence Thurston is in charge there with an obsession for restoring the old U.S. of A. His way. It seems he’s mad keen on a very neat and tidy capital with everyone working constantly. Cecile is his charming wife. Captain Michael Thurston is his oldest and married to Juliet while Lieutenant Frederick Thurston is a younger son with two daughters: Jaine and Shawonda. Sergeant-Major Anderson has been with Thurston since before the Change. Colonel Moore is the vice-president.

Commander Lamont was part of the group who investigated the infiltration. Colonel Winder is in Lewiston. Major Winters, Captain Valiers, Smith, Rojas, Sergeant Rosita Gonzales, and John Gottberg are some of their soldiers.

Major Hanks is in engineering and has a hot air balloon, the Curtis LeMay, to show Father Ignatius.

New Deseret are…

…the Mormons, a.k.a., the Saints. Bishop Joseph Nystrup, of the Church Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, is the buyer. His daughter Rebecca also acts as his secretary and assistant. His son will be one of the dead.


We don’t actually go to England, rather England comes to Sutterdown in the person of King William V’s ambassador: the Count of Azay, Tony Knolles, Nigel’s old friend with an offer from the king. Tony has brought his son and Nigel’s godson, Robert. Seems Tony has been busy as well with another two daughters and a son. Named Nigel.


The New Vatican is in Badia. The current pope is Pius XIII.

Corwinites are…

…followers of the Prophet and his Church Universal and Triumphant, a.k.a., Cutters, are based in Montana. Before the Change, the Prophet was bughouse nuts and a terrorist blowing up everything in sight. Sethaz is the Prophet’s adopted son; he suffocated his mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Geraldine is his secretary.

Joseph Kuttner was the governor’s man (of Des Moines); he’s sent with Vogeler’s Villians to get the treasures from back East that the governor has on a list.

Councilor of the Way Charom is one of the ecclesiastical bureaucrats. The Sword of the Prophet is like the priesthood and functions as a path to office and power. Commander Sean is training them. General Walker, the Prophet’s main commander, is smart and mean. He was army before the Change. General Graham.

The Rovers are…
…a savage bunch in eastern Oregon who ally with the Cutters. Most of the Rovers’ problems stem from not being on very good land and not having the tools and supplies to survive the Change very well. They’ve become wanderers, moving their herds from one patch of grazing to another.

The Morrigú is the goddess of battle. The First Levy is the primary army for the Mackenzies. Cowan is an impolite term for anyone who doesn’t follow the Mackenzie religion. The War of the Eye was that last battle between the Association and our side when Arminger and Havel fought in single combat. The treaty that resulted is known as the Meeting at Corvallis. Winnemucca is an Indian whom Mathilda, Odard, and Ignatius encounter on their way. Pierre Walks Quiet was an Anishinabe who worked for Ingolf’s father and taught Ingolf some survival skills.

Nantucket appears to have been the epicenter of the EMP. A passenger pigeon has made a reappearance.

The Cover and Title

The cover is in the trademark browns with the dark brown of the road at the base and gradating up into cream in the top half. That sky is terrifying with the feeling of brown dust hovering in the air while the mountains in the distance and the curving road give the impression of a long journey ahead. It’s Rudi front and center in leathers and a fur jacket with his back to us and slightly turned to the right, his crossbow dangling from his belt.

The title is where Rudi and his company are heading on a Quest to The Sunrise Lands.