The idea of filling in some of what was going on at home during the quest of Rudi and the gang for the magic sword must have seemed reasonable to Stirling when he sat down to write Tears of the Sun. The problem was that he couldn’t think of anything that actually happened.
Most of the four book quest plotline was already dragged out with lots of dinners and repetitive conversations, but Tears of
the Sun is just dinners and repetitive conversations. It’s all the annoying ceremonies, the discussions of weapons and the remarks about how the world has changed that made up the background of the Change series, filling out an entire book.
The closest thing to an interesting story or something actually happening in Tears of the Sun is the Dunedain heading off to Boise to rescue Thurston’s family to use them to break down Martin Thurston’s reign. It’s also one of the smallest parts of the book. Instead Stirling dwells endlessly on Tiphtane D’Ath, another of the lesbian blond superhumans, except this time without the genetic engineering of the Draka justifying her existence. Tiphaine isn’t actually interesting and spending a hundred pages in her head while she broods and makes the same bad jokes is no picnic. But it’s still a picnic compared to Yseult Liu, the younger sister of Odard Liu, who is about as interesting as watching paint dry on the wall.
Just to make things worse, instead of making Tears of the Sun into a prequel novel, S.M. Stirling turns into a flashback hybrid which is unnecessarily confusing. To make matters worse, the flashbacks are scattered and set on the thin pretext of having to explain what happened to Yseult Liu and a few other characters. So a bunch of flashbacks, where mostly nothing happens, are intertwined with a present where nothing happens. And it’s sometimes hard to tell the two apart, but mostly it doesn’t matter because nothing happens.
S.M. Stirling has been turning the Change novels into a shopping list slowly, but with Tears of the Sun, the shopping effect has actually kicked in. It’s a novel that should have been broken down and rewritten. Instead it got turned in, printed and shipped because bestsellers are bestsellers and a bestselling author can do no wrong.