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Title: Salute the Dark
Series: Shadows of the Apt #4
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
The Empire is spread thin. Stenwold Maker knows this and sends out various people to other cities to stir up rebellion. If enough cities can rebel at the same time, the Wasp Empire’s grasp might be broken.
Stenwold goes to the Commonwealth. Salme continues the fight for the Ant Cities with his Irregulars. Che sneaks off to yet another city while Acheaos, only partly recovered, takes part in a Moth Ritual that kills him. Thalric ends up coming back to the Empire, killing one of the three Rekef Generals and goes back to Capitas in chains.
Tisamon, twisted by his Mantis honor, leaves Felise and heads to Capitas, drawn by the power of the Darakyon Box. Said Box is firmly under the control of Uctebri, a Mosquito kinden. Uctebri is plotting against Emperor Alvdan II with plans to replace him with his sister, who will be Uctebri’s puppet.
Totho and Drephos, tasked with making an example of the Bee City, set up the first chemical warfare test. The creators of the gas kill themselves in remorse and Totho ends up gassing the Wasp soldiers instead and running off with a damaged Drephos.
Tisamon and Felise meet as Gladiators in Capitas and attempt to assassinate the Emperor. Unbeknownst to them, they were only a distraction for Uctebri and Seda to kill Alvdan and use the Blood of an Emperor to gain access to the Darakyon Box. Nothing goes according to plan though. Tisamon and Felise kill Uctebri, destroy the Box and are killed in turn. Seda must convince the Wasp populace to accept a Wasp Empress and recalls all the armies to consolidate her power. This recall, along with the various rebellions, allow many city states to survive as Free Cities.
Of the 4 Conspirators we are introduced to in Book 1, Stenwold the beetle, Tisamon the mantis, Atrissa the spider and Nero the fly, only Stenwold is still alive. And of his apprentices, Che, Tynisia and Totho are the only ones still alive by the end of the book. Many of his apprentices die heroic, noble deaths, but die they do.
War grinds bones and hearts alike.
This was an excellent book. In the previous book I was saying how I wasn’t enjoying this series as much upon this re-read. Well, this book definitely put paid to that idea.
The odd thing, this book is about death. So many characters die. If you just told me the synopsis, I’d probably roll over in despair. But HOW they die, the writing itself, redeems their deaths from a hopeless struggle into something greater. Tchaikovsky manages to show how horrible death is, how inevitable and yet have his characters overcome it by their selflessness. Prince Salme, leader of the Irregulars, is the prime example of this. I can’t put into words, but Tchaikovsky makes him a Hero, even while killing him off.
The other wonderful thing is the character development. Being a sensitive kind of fellow [he says while being reminded that morning by a coworker about the time he chased down and stomped a mouse to death with his combat boots, IN CHURCH], character development has to be done just right. Not enough and I complain about cardboard. Too much and I complain about estrogen and make fun of “feelingz” and talk macho for a couple of sentences. I’m pretty much the Goldilocks of the Male Book Reviewer. It has to be Just Right or I piss and moan like a man baby. In this regards, it is like Tchaikovsky had me as a model for creating and growing his characters. It is Done Right. People change. People question themselves. People don’t change. People don’t question themselves. Sometimes people are stupid and other people are genius.
My only complaint for the book is “Why hasn’t Stenwold Maker groomed another Spymaster to either take his place or at least take some of the burden?” And yet that oversight on Stenwold’s part is what makes him, him. So even my complaint is rooted in one of the best things of this series, the characters.
Last time I read this, I gave it 4 Stars. This time around, I appreciated the writing more and the whole tone. I enjoyed it just as much and found it to hold up to a re-read with no problems. There were a couple of instances when I was reading that I thought to myself “This is astonishing”. I don’t think that about many books I read, not even the ones I really enjoy.