I just read Sky Blue Wolves, the (putatively) final novel in The Change series by S M Stirling. My reaction (to the book, and the series as a whole):
Meh. Once again, like the end of the Prophet’s War, he builds up a huge titanic conflict and then it just kind of piddles out. And another magic sorcerous quest, when we just had one last book, is a real letdown, and certainly not what I like(d) about the series to begin with. I think the strong point was the setting, the question of how society would reform, what clever things they would be able to do with the remnants of high tech, etc. Introducing magic to the mix was fun, when it wasn’t used as a cure-all insta-fix as it was here. And having purely heroic leaders with ultra-powerful magic swords was fun as well, particularly when discussing the drawbacks of having a magic sword that always let you tell when someone was lying, etc.
So, I would have loved a much longer and tougher siege of the evil castle, where a combination of cleverness and “new technology” and using the magic swords at key moments won the day, and there was a real sense of stake, and maybe some real characters died (Reiko could have sacrificed herself, knowing the sword would go to her sisters).
All of that said… I’ve eagerly read every book in the series, and always zipped through them, and the premise has gotten itself nicely wedged into my subconscious, to the extent that I’ve often found myself wondering what would be happening post-change wherever I happened to be. So obviously there’s a lot there that was right.
So… would I read any more books? Probably… but maybe what would be best would be more collections of short stories, not another trilogy-of-trilogies monstrosity. Little glimpses of cultures around the world, or little updates on the lives of our favorite characters (how will it be growing up as the only white girl in the Japanese imperial court? will Orrey’s daughter travel to Mongolia to meet her biological father?).
And of course, the other big story left to be told, which I kind of assumed is how the series would end, is… what if technology starts working again? It’s been long enough at this point that the dystopian cyberfuture has certainly been averted, so maybe the rules have to switch back to their normal state… but with magic still working. What happens then?