Review of The High King of Montival by S. M. Stirling

Rudi Mackenzie traveled to Nantucket, where he found and took up the Sword of the Lady and, with it, his destiny. His return journey to the area known as Montival, in the Pacific Northwest, is a treacherous one since he and his companions must cross three thousand miles, making both allies and adversaries along the way.
When he reaches his destination, he will face the legions of the Prophet. To achieve victory, Rudi must assemble a coalition of those who were his enemies just months before, then forge them into an army that will rescue his homeland and tear the heart out of the Church Universal and Triumphant once and for all.
Only then will Rudi be able to come to terms with how the Sword has changed him—as well as the world—and assume his place as Artos, High King of Montival…

Epic adventure? Check.
Amazing new characters? Check.
Danger? Check. Check.
An absolutely amazing continuation of a story I’ve fallen completely in love with? Check.

It certainly didn’t feel like I’d finished the book previous to this in October- but then, you’re always in the Emberverse once you’re sucked in.

There were so many different people and places we were allowed to follow and experience and read about. While I loved the direction this one went, I have questions. Firstly, why go into Canada and up to Toronto if you’re trying to get to Oregon? Regardless, I quite enjoyed all of our new characters and seeing their relationships with the characters we already knew develop. I love seeing how the characters come to terms with the fact they have been aging and changing, which I think after the Covid 19 life restrictions everyone has a bit more understanding of how unsettling it can be to see someone/something change so much in your absence.

I quite enjoy that there seem to be stakes for Rudi. I had previously mentioned to a good friend, my anamchara, who got me started on this book series that it always seemed like Juniper was a Mary Sue–this book finally showed that while luck and the Gods may be on the side of our fair Montival leader/his mother, there is still a risk and a price to be paid; that all magic has a price. Speaking of magic, while before it seemed that it could have been magic having all of technology fall, we are suddenly getting to experience what I, as a reader, (Father Ignatius would surely have a better explanation) would call magic. There is definitely danger and risks, but I absolutely adored this book; it may even be my favourite in the entire series so far. The ending, of course, was pure perfection, and again… magic.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

Delilah and Oliver shouldn’t be together. But they are together. And just as they’re getting used to the possibility that happily ever after may really, truly be theirs, the universe sends them a message they can’t ignore: they won’t be allowed to rewrite their story.
Delilah and Oliver must decide how much they’re willing to risk for love and what it takes to have a happy ending in a world where the greatest adventures happen off the page.

This was actually everything I needed to read at the time, and along with Vespertine and another book I’m still in the process of reading, it really helped me feel something when facing personal tragedy. Now, this book does pick up where Between the Lines left off, however, Delilah, in my opinion, becomes quite unlikeable. Oliver and Edgar face a lot of personal trials and tribulations and grow a lot, but Delilah seems to sink into her relationship in a way that seems quite unhealthy. She recognizes this and even begins to dislike herself for it, but she doesn’t change or advance or grow in any way. That’s alright, because this book is honestly more about Oliver and Edgar and what it means to be yourself and put those you love first.

One thing that I think this book does better than almost any other book I’ve read is actually talk about death and dying in a way that makes sense and doesn’t belittle how much it hurts to lose someone. Everyone will lose someone in life, and it can be hard to understand and even harder to know how to pick up your life and continue on when someone who was an integral part is just… gone. Thank you so much to Picoult and van Leer for realizing that this was something that not everyone may have experienced, and that it hits people differently; especially the feelings of guilt.

This book was awesome, and I think it’s a definitely must read if you loved the first; but warning, this one has no pretty pictures (unless you count the chapter headings).

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯