April 2023 book blog

April was all about Adrian Tchaikovsky and Shadows of the Apt, I began the month with three novels and three anthologies still to read, and ended it with just two anthologies to go. ‘The Air War’ does exactly what it says on the tin. The arms race continues with the development of new aircraft, weapons and defence systems, focussing on the Wasp Empire seemingly unstoppable advance on the city of Collegium. Seda’s fear of Che’s power takes a backseat in this book as Sten totters on the brink of becoming exactly what he’s always hated. Battles are fought on several fronts as we follow the stories of two fly kinden women on opposite sides of the air war. Oh, and as everything comes to a head on all fronts, I stay up until silly o’clock because I can’t get to sleep until I know how it ends. Loads of fun, especially for students of early 20th century history.

It felt appropriate to take a short break from the novel saga and take some small sips of short story from ‘A Time for Grief’, being the second set of short stories from the ‘Shadows of the Apt’ universe. These stories are side journeys from the main story told in volumes 1 – 10 of Shadows of the Apt, and the last one is a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t read books 9 and 10. I raced through the entire book within 24 hours, because each story was so good I just wanted to get my teeth into the next one. The potential of Tchaikovsky’s worldbuilding is clear as he delves into the backstories of places and people to play with different literary forms. Tisamon plays The Man With No Name, a Collegiate am dram company conjours the ghost of Pathis past, a land of gentle Grasshopper kinden goes locust loco when the moon rises, in a zombie / werewolf tale featuring our favourite brigand, Dal Arche and his Merry Men. My favourite was the title story, taking us on a visit to Salme Dien’s Butterfly lover, Grief. Princep Salma, the city of equality and idealism, founded in Salma’s memory, comes under attack from organised crime / government who see it as a fast route to riches and glory … and who can stop them?

And then, back to the fray, with the end in sight, I fell into the ninth novel, ‘War Master’s Gate’. More arms racing, more magic, more testing of power, and oh my DOESN’T Thalric get one of the best scenes in the book, in a Buffyesque takedown of book 9’s Big Bad. Seda does as Seda does, in a temper tantrum that changes the world, a student invents a superweapon and barely anyone notices, and here we are, all set up for book 10. Genius. Thank you!

The final book in the series is ‘Seal of the Worm’ and in a series that focuses so strongly on war and weaponry, it manages to deliver one of the most truly horrific images of the entire saga as the war draws to an end. I will miss the world building, the arms race, the conflicts and the compassion and humour behind all the death and destruction. Everything has been brought to an end. All loose ends have been tidied up. No spoilers, but I’m happy with how it all turned out. There have been some sleepless nights when I just didn’t go to bed because I couldn’t sleep without knowing how a story ended. The housework has not been done. I’ve neglected my own writing. It’s all been worth it.

There are just a couple of anthologies still unread, I know I’ll enjoy them.

There was a nice moment as I was reading Book 10. I was doing some voluntary work, running a stall at a craft fair. When things were quiet, I was reading. My book was on a chair next to me as I was serving some customers, and one of them got very chatty about SF and fantasy in general, and Tchaikovsky in particular, it’s been a while since I met anyone who was so passionate about books, and I hope that he takes my advice and reads Shadows of the Apt very soon.

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