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Title: Empire in Black and Gold
Series: Shadows of the Apt #1
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
20 years ago, Stenwold Maker, along with his friends, attempt to save a city that is being invaded by the Wasp Empire. After failing, the friends go their separate ways and pursue their own agendas. Stenwold heads back to Collegium, to raise awareness of the danger of the Wasp Empire. Nobody listens and as the years pass, Stenwold becomes something of a byword and dismissed as an alarmist crackpot. But Stenwold knows that the Wasps will come and he begins training various college graduates to become his spy ring.
Now, Stenwold’s niece and adopted daughter have graduated and the Wasp Empire is on the move again. His hand being forced, Stenwold sends out Che (his niece) and her friends before he can truly train them. Thrown into a situation beyond their knowledge, the group must grow or die. The whole of the Lowlands is in danger but if Collegium falls, the whole Lowlands will follow quickly. Collegium is the one City State that accepts all Kindens and is a center of Knowledge.
|My Thoughts: Spoilers?|
(For clarity’s sake, I read this back in February 2010) This was just as good as my previous read.
Tchaikovsky does a good job of introducing us to the main characters, the various nation states and the politics of what is going on. It’s a tall order but unlike Erikson, Tchaikovksy doesn’t just drop us in and leave us to sink or swim. Information is unfolded as we need it and I never felt like there were info dumps. However, I don’t have a hate of infodumps like some, so take that as you may.
I had forgotten, or never realized, just how grim this book was. The little blurb on the cover says “The Days of Peace are Over” and my goodness, does that fit. I knew the series never lightened up but had forgotten how it started. It doesn’t fall into Grimdark, but it sure isn’t happy and upbeat. Magician by Raymond Feist might be the opposite of this. This is not a “plucky group of youngsters overcome the Evil Empire”. It is a novel of War. A novel about how a group of friends can’t stay together forever. Pushed and pulled, each character must go their own way and develop on their own.
These are not under developed characters. Tchaikovsky really delves into motivations and what drives them. It is the type of character development that I like. The flaws of their society are evident and are as much a part of the story as anything. Nor does Tchaikovsky turn into a bloody SJW [social justice warrior] and try to make some seriously skewed political point. Thank goodness for authors who aren’t flaming idiots.
To end this, this volume I read had several short stories at the end of book. Those stories are what pushed this from a 4star book to a 5star book. One in particular dealt with the magic of this world. It was a ghost story that left you wondering, was it really a ghost story or a scam? Either way, it worked really well.
Good stuff and I’m satisfied that I bought this in paperback.