I first learned about the Shadows of the Apt series, byAdrian Tchaikovsky, when it was being released over in the UK. The premise sounded fascinating. Set in a slightly steampunk-feeling fantasy world, humans have survived harsh ages by ancient bonds forged with various insect species. Through this, various groups have taken on characteristics and talents that identify them with those insects, such as ants, , mantis, beetles, and wasps. Mantis-kinden are born and bred fighters of the highest order. Beetles are crafty, though often of stodgy physique, while Ant-kinden have an inter-city telepathy.
I finally got my hands on the first book in the series,Empire in Black and Gold. In it, we are introduced to Stenwold and Tisamon. Stenwold is a Beetle who is trying to convince the people of the Lowlands of the encroaching threat of the Wasp-kinden empire and its army. Tisamon is one of the most feared Mantis-kinden weapon masters, and Stenwold’s ally and guardian.
The overall story feels like a long introduction to this world. This is not a bad thing, by any means, as there is a lot to absorb. Just encountering each of the Kinden and learning what they are about and what they can do is a bit overwhelming, but fun. There are Fly-Kinden, Scorpian-Kinden, and many others I won’t spoil for you. You can just sense the edges of this world map fading into shadow, with many unknowns lurking out of sight, waiting to be discovered. Stenwold and his companions rush to try and discover the true state of the Wasp army and figure out a way to bring people to their senses before everything is destroyed or conquered. The Wasp army reminded me somewhat of the historical Roman army–though if the Romans could sprout wings and shoot fiery stings from their hands. They have that same intense dedication to expansion and ruthless loyalty to the cause.
Original cover art
Empire in Black and Gold has plenty to enjoy besides the unique world and magic. Vicious fight scenes, scheming and back-stabbing, political debates, and even a bit of romance from unexpected places.
With their re-release in the US through Pyr Books, the Shadows of the Apt series has acquired some gorgeous new cover art as well. The UK cover art is striking in its own way…so perhaps consider buying both versions of each book, just for the sake of thoroughness. As of now, I am whipping through the second book, Dragonfly Falling, which will be reviewed here once I’m done. The third in the series is Blood of the Mantis. Look for these books in April and May, respectively.
For more info: Visit Adrian Tchakovsky’s website for authorinfo, his blog, and a chance to delve even further into the world he has created.