The Air War, book 8 in Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Shadows of the Apt series, is out now. We asked SCI-FI-LONDON Literary Editor Robert Grant to reread the series in the run up to this month and here's his final review - Heirs of the Blade, book 7.
Where The Scarab Path was a story for Che, and The Sea Watch was a story for Sten, after a two book absence Heirs of the Blade finally catches up with Mantis-Spider half-breed, Tynisa. Haunted by events of the past, racked with guilt and running from herself she fetches up in the Commonweal, land of the Dragonfly-kinden. As she tries to deal with the consequences of her mistakes she seeks only death, but whether it’s her own or other’s she doesn’t mind.
Meanwhile Empress Seda has solidified her rule of the Wasp Empire by embracing the blood-magic of the Mosquito-kinden and, with her power growing daily, she is set to unleash her dark arts on the ancient Beetle-Kinden city of Khanaphes along with the might of the vast armies of the Wasp Empire as she eyes a greater prize yet. Mirroring Seda’s change is Che. Having been exposed to the same magic as Seda, Che now finds herself coming to terms with her new found powers as she learns to control them, use them and push them to the limits.
Where The Sea Watch was the kind of fast paced action-adventure we’ve come to expect from Tchaikovsky and The Scarab Path was much darker and more atmospheric, Heirs of the Blade is a nice mix of both with a plot that features advanced technology but also gives us more magic than ever before, and it works extremely well. Chronologically it seems to parallel events of the The Sea Watch and while each thread of the story is thoroughly engaging, Tchaikovsky’s world-building is what lifts his books above the morass of other epic fantasies. We’ve been to the Commonweal before, of course, but this time we get to see much more of the Dragonfly-Kinden, revealing new aspects to this world at every turn, and the fact that every kinden has such a distinct culture and each character is so perfectly ‘of’ that culture is testament to the behind the scenes work the author brings to the table for every novel.
By now you’ll understand why I think that Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series is, frankly, one of the best epic fantasy series I’ve ever had the great good fortune to read. The quality of the writing just gets better and better with each outing and the story flows effortlessly off the page. I know the sudden TV success of another lengthy series ensures that it’s getting all the accolades, don’t feel that there is only one player in town. Grab these books, read them and re-read them, then tell all your friends - they deserve to know - and book eight is almost here!
Read the recaps of the rest of the series Read an extract from Adrian's new book, The Air War Catch up with Adrian on his blog, ShadowsOfTheApt.com For more news and reviews from Robert Grant, go to the SCI-FI-LONDON website