Series: Shadows of the Apt #1
After reading Children of Time, I wanted to read some of Tchaikovsky’s other stuff, and especially for an early novel this was quite good. It’s also the start to a massive ten-book series.
This world is populated by a multitude of human races with insect and arachnid attributes: Wasps, Bees, Mantids, Spiders, Beetles, Ants, Dragonflies, Flies, etc. Collegium is a great melting pot of a city where our principal leads start out. Here the races are mostly treated equally although halfbreeds are generally looked down on in practice. Our leads cover a good cross section of the races, of course, and they’re sent on a mission to gather intelligence to try to convince the leaders of Collegium to act against the Wasps who are rumoured to be preparing to make their move to take over the Lowlands.
So a lot of the book is our leads travelling, witnessing the Wasp preparations, travelling behind enemy lines so to speak, and a lot of the people they meet not believing that it will actually come to war with the Wasps because of the treaty. A treaty that the Wasps apparently renegotiated at one point to declare that a particular city-state wasn’t actually part of the Lowlands so the rest of the Lowlands shouldn’t be worried if they attack it. There’s a little more to the book than that, but I don’t want to get into actual plot spoilers.
I initially found the ending a bit abrupt, but I think that’s just because I had forgotten that my copy had several short stories at the end (ebook), and so I was still expecting something substantial to need to be resolved when it ended. So upon further reflection, the ending was fine. There’s a lead into the next book, but it’s not a cliffhanger ending. This first book really just covers the very start of the war, so there is more to that arc, but the book has its own contained story arc that I thought was well-resolved.
I really liked the world with all the different races, some of which are apt (read: can understand crossbows and mechanisms) and the rest of which are inapt (read: confounded by crossbows and mechanisms). Each race has their own Ancestor Art, which sounds like magic because it lets some of them fly, but seems to be more magic related to the body: strengthening eyesight, flying, clinging to walls. There is also magic in this world, which not all the races believe in. This seems to involve more mental abilities like reading minds or knowing things at a distance. Apparently Art is not magic in the minds of the races or kinden.
I haven’t decided what my next Tchaikovsky should be: I can either read the second book in this series or one of his newer works.