The Given Sacrifice
by S.M. Stirling
Roc Hardcover, 369 pp.
The Given Sacrifice concludes Stirling’s current story arc set within his Emberverse; it’s the tenth book in the series as a whole and the seventh book in the current arc (thirteenth and tenth, respectively, if you choose to count the Nantucket series). He’s also laid the groundwork for a new series set in the Emberverse that kicks off later this year (The Golden Princess) but more on that later.
Fans of the series know by now to expect a grand conclusion to the Cutter’s War, and you get it. No punches are pulled, and we get to see more of all of our favorite characters. It’s no surprise (it’s in the title!) that a major character has to die before the end of the novel—Stirling’s been laying the groundwork for this particular sacrifice since Book One, way back in 2004—and the sacrifice does indeed come about, but not in the way that I expected. So, kudos to Stirling for giving us something unexpected and even managing to pull off a happy ending.
Given Sacrifice does not in any way make for a good starting point for the series; the story draws on way too much accumulated history and character development to make it easily accessible to a new reader. But it’s one of the best series finales I’ve read in a long time. If you haven’t yet, I recommend picking up the whole series.
All in all… excellent closure, great action, fun characters, more of a well-conceived world, and an ending that leaves room for the story to develop into new and exciting directions in the next series.