The Protector's War begins eight years to the day after the Change and ends late in the ninth year. Things have stabilized during those years and the major factions are more secure in their positions, whereas in the first book, Dies the Fire, they were all struggling just to survive. Still, things aren't all hunky-dory. War looms between the APA and the factions that stand opposed to them, but unfortunately, they don't stand as united as Mike Havel, leader of the Bearkillers, would like.
Truthfully, The Protector's War didn't blow my socks off. It felt like filler; that it's main purpose was the set the stage for the war and other events in the series, but that's about it. That's not to say that the book itself isn't worth reading, but you'll have to read a big old chunk of it before anything meaningful actually happens. Aside from that, there are several big things that do happen, including the introduction of several new characters, such as Sir Nigel Loring, his son Alleyne, and John Hordle, Matilda Arminger, and Rudi Mackenzie.
The first three are SAS - Special Air Service (British special forces) who are forced to flee England after Alleyne, Hordle, and their SAS unit free Nigel from house arrest. They make their getaway (a harrowing one at that) on a ship belonging to Tasmania (which survived the Change and became independent of England and Australia) and travel around the world, disposing of still deadly nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons until they arrive in Portland, Oregon and run afoul of Norman Arminger, the Lord Protector and head of the APA. They're also longtime friends of Sam Alyard, a member of the Mackenzies and former SAS soldier himself.
Matilda Arminger is, as you might have guessed, the daughter of the Lord Protector and his heir. Her appearance and involvement in the plot is shocking as all hell, so I won't spoil it. Rudi is an interesting one because while his last name is Mackenzie, he's actually a Havel. He's the result of a one night trist between Mike and Juniper Mackenzie, Chief of the titular clan and head High Priestess (she and the majority of the clan are Wiccan). This causes friction between Mike and his wife Signe, because the latter fears that Rudi will usurp her own children's inheritance - the leadership of the Bearkillers.
I'm not going to give a full rundown of the book, mostly because I'm godawful at it.
Like: The universe as a whole, the characters, and especially the battles. The major events that happen definitely set the tone for the inevitable war.
Dislike: The fact that it's a 591 page book and nothing major happens until you've read about two or three hundred pages of it. The parts focused on the Mackenzies farming. Good lord, we don't need to know details on how their plows and harvesting equipment works and how well.