War Master’s Gate (Shadows of the Apt #9) ★★★★★

warmastersgate (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: War Master’s Gate
Series: Shadows of the Apt #9
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 737
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The 8th Imperial Army marches on Sarn, the last surviving Ant City. With the help of knowledge from previous encounters, the military leaders of Sarn have a ghost of a chance of surviving.

Collegium is facing the 2nd Imperial Army, “The Gears”. Having fought off the Gears twice before, the citizens are certain they can do so again. After the decimation of the Imperial Air Force in the previous book, Collegium now rules the air and that might be their chance to survive.

General Tynan,general of the Gears, now allied with the Spiders, must overcome Collegium and gain access to its library, which holds texts that Empress Seda has commanded him to take. But without an airforce, with “allies” known for betrayal and facing technology from the brains of Collegium.

Seda has found a wellspring of power, the tomb of Argastos. Argastos was a moth sorceror-warrior from the Age of the Inapt, the War Leader of the Host of all the Inapt. They all came together to fight against the Worm kinden but were unable to truly defeat them. So their sorcerors all came together and sealed the Worm away. They also sealed away Argastos and his war-horde, as “guardians” of the Seal.

Che is chasing down Seda to prevent her from getting her hands on this power of Argastos. In the world of the Apt, a sorceror-Empress would be something the world wouldn’t know how to deal with. Che must prevent Seda from becoming all powerful.

In the end, Che and Seda both gain Argasto’s power but in the struggle break the Seal of the Worm, a kinden that want to to make every kinden into their own kind. The Gears capture Collegium and all those who resisted are either killed or in hiding. Sarn drives off the 8th Army but the Empire and the Spiders have a falling out that prohibits any further advances by the Imperial forces.

 

My Thoughts:

Hmmm, where to begin? Well, knowing that there is only 1 more book after this one, unlike last time, I could appreciate this particular story arc a bit more. I wasn’t constantly thinking about “what was next” but could focus on the here and now.

The other thing was that I had forgotten it took this long in the series for Collegium to finally be conquered. For some reason I thought it happened earlier in the series, even though I’m reading this series all over again. Just goes to show why I need to re-read things!

The end of the Felylal, the mantis kinden taking shelter in Collegium, that was heart breaking. What is left of a whole nation, men, women, children, grands, all throwing themselves against the Gears and dying. It really hit me hard this time around and honestly, I’m not even sure I noticed it last time. Kids. I actually put off writing this review for quite a few days just to deal with that.

On a “magic” note, Che and Seda’s journey was just as interesting, if not more so than the fight between the armies and cities. Last time I kind of just skimmed it. This time, I considered it to be the main part of the book. We see how much Che has changed through the eyes of those who are now in her entourage. Instead of being dragged around, or sent off, or somewhere on someone else’s behest, she is here because of her own will. Seda on the other hand is shown to be more afraid than ever, even while having more power than almost any other woman in the history of the world.

This is the kind of series that is complex enough that new things will emerge upon every re-read. I bumped it up a full star from last time because I enjoyed it even more than last time and have no doubt that when I get around to re-reading this series yet again that I’ll enjoy it just as much then.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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The Air War (Shadows of the Apt #8) ★★★★☆

airwar (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Air War
Series: Shadows of the Apt #8
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 672
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire has begun its expansion once again. Under the guise of defending themselves, they begin taking back the Low Land cities that escaped them the last time.

The war has moved into the air and airplanes and pilots are the new masters. Even the Air War evolves as it progresses, moving from one on one duels to a new way of communication among the wasps to fly kinden and wasp women being in the airforce.

The Empire, with the help of the Iron Glove Cartel, are now using Greatshotters to make walled cities pointless. They move on Collegium and it is only because the Empress has discovered a new source of power that the Imperial Army is pulled back, once again.

Empress Seda tidies up the Empire and allows plotters to gather so she can use her magic to wrap them all up.She continues to search for pockets of old power but all the old secrets have either already been used or decayed. There are less than vague hints about the Seal of the Worm but none of the Inapt slaves are willing to tell Seda about it. This only fuels Seda’s curiosity and she begins to dig.

 

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time back in 2014, I gave it 3 Stars. Storywise, I still stand by that. This was depressing, as the colossus that is the Empire just rolls over almost everything in this book. Collegium is the only city that successfully fights back and even that was not a “win” but more of a stay of execution. Almost 700 pages of the good guys staving off complete disaster and calling regular disaster a win. How are you supposed to get excited about that?

This time around, since I knew that was coming, I was able to focus more on the writing itself and I must say, this deserves that 4stars completely. Tchaikovsky is a Wordsmith and even when he was going on about air fighting stuff, which I didn’t care 2 whits for, I was able to focus on the words themselves and what they were trying to convey. It was worth it.

What I don’t understand and I can’t remember if this is EVER addressed in this series, is why the whole “kinden” gifts aren’t considered magic? Why doesn’t Seda try to tap into that as a source? I mean, she’d have the whole worlds population to exploit. Because of the lack of magic in this book and the focus on airplanes and how they change the war, I had to find something magical to think about for goodness sake! If a wasp can make some sort of energy appear and shoot from his hand, if a fly can make “wings” appear from her back and fly through the air, etc, etc, then what is the force behind that? It is presented as something that “just is” and with so much going on, it is easy to sit back and let it slide. But I had to pick at something since I don’t care for WWI style of fighting and this idea was it. If the Darakyon, a whole magical forest, can be put into the Shadow Box, why can’t Seda begin draining the magical force of the kinden gifts into her own container? See, I’d much rather read about something like that than flipping airplanes and coils and springs and crap that has no place in fantasy.

Ok, it’s not completely magicless, as anything to do with Empress Seda revolves around magic, but it is such a SMALL part that I wept for its short stature.

The characters were top notch. We get a lot of small characters from previous books playing bigger roles and some new characters and a very few of the old. Taki is one of the pilots and it is through her that we see the majority of the air war. You can feel how the war changes the one on one aerial duels to mass bombings and how it affects the pilots. It is almost the same change going from warriors like Tisamon, who were exquisite artists of death, to the massed clumps of beetle soldiers armed with snapbows who are able to deal out so much more death than Tisamon ever could. War has gone from a hobby for the rich individual to something of mass death waged by cities. And Taki lets us feel that change every step of the way. She is heroic, she is brave and she is talented and in the end, it’s not enough and she knows it. And we the readers know it as well.

I am also adding the “Favorite” tag because even though I didn’t particularly care for the planes (have I mentioned that enough yet do you think?), this series as a whole is even better this second time around. I can take the time to examine the underpinnings and they are as solid and artful as the building as a whole. I continue to be thoroughly impressed.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Heirs of the Blade (Shadows of the Apt #7) ★★★★☆

heirsoftheblade (Custom).jpgThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Heirs of the Blade
Series: Shadows of the Apt #7
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 644
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Che, dragging Thalric in her wake, goes on a quest to save her foster-sister Tynisa, who has gone off into the hinterlands of the Commonweal to die nobly as a true Mantis would. Even though Tynisa is half-spider and looks fully spider-kinden.

Che, in her chase of Tynisa, must face the fact that she, Cheerwell Maker, is now a magician and inextricably linked with Seda the Wasp Empress as a cosmic joke by the Slug-kinden. Che has terrible premonitions about the Seal of the Worm, something so terrible that no one will talk to her about it and it has pretty much been erased from the history books. At the same time, with the ghost of Achaoes excised, Che begins to realize she is falling in love with Thalric, even with their horrible history.

Tynisa has a view of the Commonweal based on what she was of Salme Dien before he died. Unfortunately, Dien was a truly noble Dragonfly and the rest of his family and most of the nobles in fact, are nothing more than the usual spoilt aristocracy with no desire to actually shoulder their responsibilities. Tynisa ends up being possessed by her father’s ghost, who had survived the destruction of the Darakyon box by haunting Che. When he was cast out by the Slug-kinden he was free to go where he wanted and ended up possessing Tynisa. This gave her all of his skill but also all of his twisted up ideas and thoughts. She hooks up with the Salme family and becomes a merchant of death for them against a peasant rebellion.

Che and Thalric hook up with a necromancer who promises she can free Tynisa from Tisamon’s ghost. It doesn’t go so well at first but eventually Tynisa is freed and end up siding with the rebels. The Salme family is brought to bloody justice by the King of the Commonweal for their multiple abuses of power.

While all of that is going on, Seda makes a pilgrimage to Kanaphes, city of the Slug-kinden. Ostensibly to investigate the “black mineral” found out in the desert, which will transform her army and give her a true airforce, but in reality to seek out the Slug-kinden and wrest power from them. Already a powerful sorceress from her instructions from various Inapt mystics, Seda knows she is capable of more. The Slug-kinden grant her wish but link her to Che where each can occasionally have visions of what the other is doing, has done or will do.

The book ends with the Empire of Black and Gold on the move again and breaking all treaties signed to that time. War is come again.

 

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, I was hoping that this time this book would go up a half star, maybe even a full star from my previous read of it back in ’13. Earlier Shadows of the Apt had improved with a re-read and so my outlook was a rosy glow full of optimism and ♪Strength for ♪Today and Bright ♪Hope for Tomorrow♪ Sadly, it didn’t improve. However, it was just as good as the time before, so don’t take it that this was bad in any way.

This book is where the titular “Shadows” comes into play as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know what Tchaikovsky meant when he titled this Shadows of the Apt but I’ve taken it to mean that the Apt cast a long shadow and bad things happen within that shadow (ie, war). It can also mean that things exist in their shadow (ie, blindspot) that they aren’t aware of, like magic. Either way, this was a grim book full of shadows indeed. From Tynisa learning that the Commonweal was NOT a textbook fairytale filled with Heroes and Good Guys to Che sensing a glimpse of something truly horrific, to just the exigencies of war, it all casts a shadow.

There was another whole storyline in which Amnon, the First Champion of Kanaphes and his Collegium lover came back to Kanaphes and Dariandrephos and Totho are in the middle of trying to get the Iron Glave Consortium back into the good graces of the Empire. It started out feeling important and then just ends. That is one of the problems with a really big series. Not every storyline can be fully fleshed out.

My biggest issue that caused me to keep it at the same level as before is Che’s refusal to accept that she is a magician and that magic is real. It came up so often in this book, her lack of belief, that it got rather annoying. Even with EVERYTHING that happened in the previous book, she still doesn’t want to believe in magic. I wanted to slap her and tell her to accept reality as she knew it, not as she wanted it. And that was really my only complaint. So if people refusing to accept the truth before their eyes doesn’t bother you, then it might not affect your read of this at all.

Overall, this series is just fantastic. This re-read is really cementing my love of Tchaikovsky’s writing and the ideas he has. I no longer have any qualms about having bought all 10 books in trade paperback. Completely worth the money and the shelf-space.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

The Sea Watch (Shadows of the Apt #6) ★★★★★

seawatch (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Sea Watch
Series: Shadows of the Apt #6
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 720
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The city of Collegium is trying to catch it’s collective breath since the cease-fire agreement with the Wasp Empire has gone into affect. Stenwold Maker continues his job as an embassador and is trying to get 2 more Ant Cities to at least become trading partners with Collegium.

Of course, the Wasp Empire has it’s own agents in the city and they are doing what they can to undermine Collegium for when the Empire resumes it war footing.

At the same time, it is revealed that the Spider Family Aldenrael, which pretty much rescued Collegium during the last war with Vek, has been preying on Collegium ships and playing pirate. When one of those “pirates” is killed and turns out to be a minor Aldenrael member, the entire Spider Nation goes on the warpath and prepares an armada to take over Collegium.

Since that’s obviously not enough, it turns out that there is an entire underwater culture of Kinden, which wants to invade and take over Collegium as well. Stenwold is kidnapped by these kinden while dealing with the other 2 issues (Wasps and Spiders) and gets sucked into another whole world. He must survive, escape and somehow broker a peace deal with these Sea Kinden. To seal the deal, he must find the lost ruler who is now a young man.

Neither the Empire nor the Spiders want peace, so treachery continues to abound and things look really bad for Collegium. Until Stenwold finds the heir, brokers a deal with the Sea Kinden, sinks a whole bunch of Spider ships and wipes out a nest of Rekef Inlanders (Wasp agents) in Collegium.

Now it’s back to business as usual with the Wasp Empire being the main threat.

 

My Thoughts:

My Review for This from back in 2011 still stands true as all get out.

This was the perfect way to end my reading year, on a very good note. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end and since it’s been 6 years, enough things were dulled that it wasn’t a slog. In many ways, this re-read made me appreciate Tchaikovsky’s writing skills even more. I liked this book. I begrudged my time away from it and made the most of when I was reading it. I read the final 30% this afternoon in one sitting.

To see Stenwold having almost everything taken from him (Che’s not returning from Khanaphes, Arianna’s demise, Teornis’s betrayal, Sten’s capture and imprisonment under the sea) and not have it break him? I thought Tchaikovsky did a fantastic job of creating Sten and turning him into someone I want to cheer on and hope that things work out for. He was a true Hero, even if deliberately not cast into the Warrior Knight mold.

It was also nice to simply have the focus be on one character. Stenwold is our point of view for the whole book and everything is through him and revolves around him. It made for a nice linear read. It also wasn’t a puzzle with trying to fit 5 different storylines together. Sometimes I like complexity but other times I just want something straight forward. Tchaikovsky gave me that in spades with this.

When I bought this series in trade paperback (I’m going to try to do a shelfie of just these 10 books for the last book) I almost immediately had buyers regret as I wasn’t sure I was going to like them enough to read them again. Well, this re-read has grabbed those regrets and tossed them into the Marianna Trench. These have been BETTER this second time around and I’m already looking forward to another go in 10 years or so even while I’m not finished this first Re-read!

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

The Scarab Path (Shadows of the Apt #5) ★★★★ ½

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Scarab Path
Series: Shadows of the Apt #5
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 721
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Lowlands are not at war but Stenwold knows that won’t last. In an effort to help Che get over the death of her lover Acheaos and to fulfill his mission of finding new allies, Cheerwell is sent as an ambassador to the near mythical city of Khanaphes, where a small Collegium delegation has been studying their history. When Che finds out that the whole city is supposedly Inapt, she jumps at the chance, figuring she can find a way to fix her own Inaptness.

Thalric, now Regent and forced lover of Seda the Wasp Empress, finds himself the target of high level assassination attempts. He is also being drawn deeper and deeper into the Empress’s bloody magical rituals and it is destroying his soul. The Empire is trying to co-opt the natural enemies of Knanaphes and Thalric jumps at the chance to get away from the Empress and figures he’ll be safe from assassins as well. Thalric is given the ambassadorship and he believes he is trying to find allies in Khanaphes, not knowing that the Rekef are working with the Many of Nem, scorpion kinden, to destroy Khanaphes.

Totho the halfbreed, after rebelling from the Empire and running off with Drephos, has started his own Arms Dealer company called the Iron Glove. He is in Khanaphes to expand his market but everything takes a back seat when he finds out Che AND Thalric are in the city. He ends up fighting for the city and eventually realizes that Che will just never be his.

Everyone meets up in Khanaphes and nothing goes according to anybody’s plans. The beetles are not Inapt, the Collegium delegation from before is either dead or mad, Thalric is still being hunted and no one can believe that the Scorpion horde attack will be any different from all the previous times.

Che and Thalric hook up for mutual survival, awake the Masters of Khanaphes (the Slug kinden, the original masters of magic), save Khanaphes, find out that Che is being haunted by Tisamon’s ghost and then they both go chasing after said ghost when it is freed from its ties to Che and begins to hunt for its daughter Tynisia.

 

My Thoughts:

Every time I go into this Shadows of the Apt re-read, I wonder if the book will be as good as I remember from my previous read. So far, every book has been as good, if not better, than the original read. This was one of the better times.

My only complaint was Che. She can be a real Debby Downer and at times is just frozen with self-doubt, recriminations and fear. It is awkward to read about and rather embarrasing actually. But she’s not that way ALL the time and most of the time I liked reading about her. But that is the only reason I knocked a halfstar off, other than that, this would have been a 5star read.

Tchaikovsky can write! I know I say that in these reviews, but I just sat back half way through this book and thought about it. He has talent and it’s obvious he’s worked hard as well. The combination of hardwork, practice and talent make for a fantastic book, or series in this case. It isn’t just that he can follow the rules of grammar, etc, but he knows how to use his words outside of the written rules. It is kind of like watching a true martial artist. They can take any formalized move in their art and turn it into a thing of beauty just by executing it.

I liked the story this time around, a lot. It is really interesting how the Apt races want to not only turn their backs on magic but pretend it never existed. With Che being Inapt now, she must learn to do away with that attitude. It separates her from so many people, because they don’t believe it and she can’t explain it. The Battle for Khanaphes was awesome! The Khanaphir were just not ready for modern warfare and it was only thanks to Totho and his Iron Glove associates that the city even stood a chance. But even that wasn’t enough and it was only through the magic of the Slug Kinden that Khanaphes survived. But even then, they aren’t a very nice Kinden, very much an old Master Race of Inapt magicians. But no worries, they just go back to sleep, like the sluggards they are.

Finally, I enjoyed how Tisamon has gone from a hero, albeit, a somewhat broken one, to a ghost who will do anything and use anyone to further its aims. I know he plays more of a part in later books, but right now, I can’t really remember how and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out.

Completely recommended, but definitely part of a series. Start at the beginning and enjoy!

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

 

Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4) ★★★★★

salutethedark (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Salute the Dark
Series: Shadows of the Apt #4
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 326
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

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.

 

My Thoughts:

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.

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

  1. Salute the Dark (2011 Review)
  2. Blood of the Mantis (Book 3)
  3. Dragonfly Falling (Book 2)
  4. Empire in Black and Gold (Book 1)

Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt #3) ★★★★☆

blood-mantis-V-674x1024 (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Blood of the Mantis
Series: Shadows of the Apt #3
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 305
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

The Wasp Empire is taking a breather after the beating they took in the previous book. But that does not mean that they are not advancing. Two “independent” cities on the outskirts of the lowlands have come to the attention of the Empire as alternate entry points to defeating Collegium and their wrangling allies.

One of those cities happens to be the center of smuggling for vast swathes of country around. Into this city has come the Box of the Darakyon, put up for sale by Scyla. Stenwold sends a group to this city to scope out it’s chances of becoming an ally and if possible to recover the Box. Led by Achaeos, Tisamon, Tynisa, Thalric and a rogue Wasp head out to recover it. Up against them are various collectors, mystics and agents of the Empire.

The other city is on the border of the Spiderlands. If the Empire can be provoked into starting their war on yet another front, it would relieve pressure on the Lowlands. Chi and Nero,the fly artist, are sent in but by the time they actually arrive, the Empire has already started moving in its troops. By making deals with the local spider lords, the Empire hopes to take the city without inciting the Spiderlands.

During all this, the Bee kinden begin a revolt and Tothos and Dr. Drephos are tasked with putting into play Drephos’ new weapon against the bees. Emperor Alvdan II continues his frantic search for eternal life and the Mosquito mystic continues his game, whatever that may be.

 

My Thoughts:

We get a rest from the “War” but the fighting continues. Wars require allies and vassals and Stenwold is at his best as Spymaster. Dealing in the shadows, working behind the scenes, Stenwold is not at his best as the public face of Collegium as a Warmaster. But with that being his lot, he must once again send out those he loves and cares for to do the dirty work.

The ‘magic’ side of things really starts to become more prominent and just like the hints from before, it would seem that all magic is nasty stuff. It was used to enslave, to control and it brought out the worst in those who used it, or attracted the worst kind of character. It is dark and scary and I have to wonder how the Apt kinden ever threw off the chains of magic that the InApt used to enslave them.

This book was kind of depressing because there just doesn’t seem to be any hope for stopping the Wasp Empire. Stall them, delay them, yes. But put a stop to their expansion? There does not appear to be a way. The Empire is already showing signs of moral decay. Alvdan’s quest for immortality and fear of death is almost the face of what is wrong with the Wasps as a whole. Their warrior ethos is softening and decaying into mere cruelty and wantoness.

Honestly, I am not liking this series as much as I did the first time around. Every new book I was looking for Hope. I was looking for Heroes. I was looking for that Something Better to rise from the ashes of Defeat, pain and suffering writ on its body but it’s spirit of grim resolve and determination to win unbroken and only strengthened by adversity. What I got was a story of what happens when ordinary people do their best against overwhelming odds. They do not always win. That is a tough nut to chew on.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Blood of the Mantis (2010 Review)
  2. Empire in Black and Gold (Book 1)
  3. Dragonfly Falling (Book 2)