Sunday, July 21, 2019

Review: The Shadows of the Apt Series


Fantasy novels can start to feel the same after a while - medieval setting, sword fights, magic, war and political intrigue.. Been there done that. So when something different comes along you have to sit up and take notice. Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series manages to bring a unique edge to the genre and deserves far more acclaim than it receives. Imagine the party dynamics of The Wheel of Time, mix in the political intrigue of A Song of Ice and Fire and add that to a world peopled with kinden, a blend of human and insect which imbues them with special traits and abilities, and you have the makings of something truly special.

The world Tchaikovsky has created draws you in from the start and once it has sunk its claws into you it keeps getting more intricate and compelling with each turn of the page. Fantasy fans know that the quality and scope of a fantasy series is directly proportional to the amount of maps it has. The Shadows of the Apt starts out with a single map and by the end the world has expanded so far beyond the boundaries that it requires not two, not three, but four pages of maps with whole regions still left uncharted.

'By believing yourself a hero all your actions become heroic, no matter what they are.' (War Master's Gate, p 489)

The series starts out focused on a small band of friends as they struggle to fight against agents of an encroaching war. With each book the scope and cast of characters expands revealing new facets to a world of  dazzling brilliance and intricacy. Even tangential characters become pivotal as the story unfolds. The series truly has it all: brilliantly dynamic sword duels where you can feel the blood and sweat splatter off of the combatants, large battlefield confrontations with war machines and clashing armies, aerial dogfights and magical battles of the mind. It sets the machinery of Empire against personal freedoms, loyalty against betrayal, progress against tradition, and the powers of artifice against arcane arts. A poignant reminder of the toll of war, the cost of freedom and the inevitable march of progress for good and bad.

'Like all your Apt things... it makes your lives easier and more comfortable, and at the same time it robs you of something of worth that you do not know enough to miss.' (Seal of the Worm, p 444)

The Shadows of the Apt series takes you on a fantastical journey filled with a compelling cast of characters that burrow into your heart and will have you frantically devouring book after book hoping for their continued survival and ultimate redemption. The last book, Seal of the Worm brings the series to an aptly satisfying close. I'm still basking in the afterglow of an amazing story brilliantly told.

Shadows of the Apt deserves to be listed right alongside the great fantasy series of our time. It has better fight scenes than the The Wheel of Time, political intrigue to rival A Song of Ice and Fire, no boring filler to slog through and best of all the series is complete. Plus it has way more insects than any of those!

If the thought of committing to a ten book series seems too daunting you can just read the first four novels, Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling, Blood of the Mantis and Salute the Dark as they act as a self-contained story arc with a satisfying ending.

The Verdict:
If you are looking for a fantasy series with something different then the Shadows of the Apt is just the thing. Tchaikovsky manages to add a unique spin to familiar fantasy tropes with a world that blurs the lines of what we've come to expect from fantasy. It has a little bit of everything, the sheer scope of everything at play is just mind-blowing. A worthy addition to the ranks of the great fantasy series of our time. Up there with The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire. This deserves to be read!

The Rating: 9/10 (Excellent)

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