I don’t remember where I first heard about the Shadows of the Apt series of novels by Adrian Tchaikovsky, but I do know that it was in early 2010 that I was intrigued enough by what I’d heard to pick up the first novel in the series. Empire in Black and Gold introduced a fantasy world in which magic was on the wane and a new empire was on the rise.
What first attracted me to the series was the idea of insect kinden races. This is a world populated entirely by humans, but humans that are divided by kinden – each named after and drawing some abilities from an insect species. It’s certainly an original idea, and one that Tchaikovsky has used very effectively over the course of the series. What has kept me hooked, however, is the idea of Apt and Inapt kinden. The Apt races are technologically proficient – able to design, manufacture and use new technologies – while the more mystically inclined Inapt kinden are unable to understand even the simplest piece of machinery.
This makes for a world in which the traditional fantasy setting has been overthrown by an industrial revolution, and one that feels very different to other novels in the genre. And, as the series has developed, Tchaikovsky has managed to very effectively merge the steampunk and epic fantasy genres to spectacular effect.
It’s also very refreshing to read a fantasy series that doesn’t hanker after some imagined bucolic ideal.
And so to The Air War, the eighth book in the series. According to the blurb:
All is in turmoil as the world moves towards war. In Solarno, the spies watch each other and ready their knives, while Myna sees the troops muster at its border and emotions run high as it vows never to be enslaved again. In Collegium, the students argue politics, too late to turn the tide.
In the heart of the Empire, new pilots have completed their secretive training, generals are being recalled to service and armies are ready to march. Their Empress, the heir to two worlds, intends to claim her birthright. And nothing – either within the Empire or beyond it – will stand in her way.
A conflict is coming, the like of which the insect-kinden have never seen.
… and this really does tell you everything you need to know. I am not going to attempt to review this book – I am sure that many others have already done a much better job than I would. All that I will say is that you do need to be familiar with the characters and past events of the series to get the most out of this novel.
If you have been following the Shadows of the Apt up to now, you really won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t then you are probably better off starting from the beginning – it’s only eight books (so far) and the time taken to read them really is time well spent.