Here’s a spoiler free part review, part enthuse about Shadows of the Apt. Yes, I'm talking about a series here rather than a single book, I hear that's fashionable at the moment. Enjoy!
Shadows of the Apt is an epic fantasy series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The series has been running for some time now and the ninth book, War Master’s Gate, has recently come out (and is shortlisted for a Gemmell award!). Being a little behind the times, I only started reading the series last year.
So here are my thoughts so far (I’ve read the first two books).
Disclaimer: I have met the author and think he’s rather lovely. In fact I’d take him home for tea!
Shadows of the Apt contains all the ingredients you’d expect in a good epic fantasy. There are multiple races, lots of factions fighting and competing, fragile alliances, politics, war (lots of war!), magic, romance, betrayal, and some seriously badass swordplay.
But several things set it apart for me. The first is that the different races are all based around insects. They still appear humanoid but have abilities and aspects of their appearance tied to their namesake. For example Wasp-Kinden can fly and sting. Moth-Kinden see well in the dark. I loved this as an idea as it was so immediate. In a lot of fantasy the races have made up names like The Killiamancoratrors or Mingfatiorana and it can be hard to remember which is which but in Shadows of the Apt I could immediately hook into the world.
Another great plus point is that the world is constantly changing and the world at the start of Book 1 is a very different place by the end of Book 2. This is because the actions of the characters have real and immediate consequences.
A note on characters: there’s a nice variety of ages and gender. It’s good to see older characters in the limelight.
The interplay between technology and magic is excellent too. I liked the way science is made to feel like magic sometimes, when we see it from the point of view of those races that traditionally fail to grasp it.
And it really is epic. If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy 7, there’s an amazing moment where you’ve been adventuring in the city of Midgar, immersed in its politics marvelling at how big it is and then you step outside for the first time and realise there’s a whole world to explore. The transition from book 1 to book 2 is like that, moving from epic, to EPIC!
But, despite all this, you don’t need a dictionary or a wiki to navigate the plot.
I’m really excited to see where things go next and looking forward to settling into the rest of the series and picking up Book 3.