The Blurb: The war with the Wasp Empire has ended in a bitter stalemate, and Collegium has nothing to show for it but wounded veterans. Cheerwell Maker finds herself crippled in ways no doctor can mend, haunted by ghosts of the past that she cannot appease, seeking for meaning in a city that no longer seems like home.
The Empress Seda is regaining control over those imperial cities who refused to bow the knee to her, but she draws her power from something more sinister than mere armies and war machines. Only her consort, the former spymaster Thalric, knows the truth, and now the assassins are coming and he finds his life and his loyalties under threat yet again.
Out past the desert of the Nem the ancient city of Khanaphes awaits them both, with a terrible secret entombed beneath its stones...
This is the fifth book in Tchaikovsky’s frankly brilliant Shadows of the Apt series. Some old favourite characters are in the fore. Cheerwel Maker, the beetle Kinden takes up centre stage, and my personal favourite, Thalric, the reluctant companion of the Empress Seda, Rekef Major, ex-traitor and all round conflicted Wasp is busy getting slapped around by the world again. Totho, the halfbreed Artificer also features heavily in this book. New peoples are introduced as well.
Adrian made a unique world. There are no traditional dwarves and elves, but human Kinden. Each kinden are a human/insect hybrid. That’s not the correct explanation I’m sure, but it’s the closest I can get. We have Beetles, Wasps, Scorpions, Flies, Mantids and who knows what else running around and causing havoc.
Each of the clearly defined Kinden have their own strenghts and weaknessess, characteristics and quirks. Beetles are slow, Scorpions warlike and Wasps look down on everybody for example. Tchaikovsky is a writer who differentiates each character well enough within each cultural constriction to make and keep them interesting.
In a steampunk-insect world, there are the Apt and Inapt. The Apt can handle and understand technology, the Inapt magic. An Inapt cannot use a crossbow and an Apt does not understand the mystic side of things. This contraint placed on the characters are well done, and this drives a lot of how characters interact with each other. This makes the world and the story an unique one.
I thought his main storyline was done with the ending of the war in the previous book, but now realise that the war was just an introduction to an amazing world and brilliant story.
Tchaikovsky is a very underrated writer. He churns out books at an amazing pace, and each filled to the brim with intruige, character development and world building. It’s an amazing book and worth a read.