Studly Doright is tired of hearing me talk about the series of books I just finished reading, but I’m not through talking about them. That’s bad news for my readers, so feel free to tune out any time. If you enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy genres, though, you might want to stick around for just a minute or two.
The series in question is Adrian Tchaikovsky’s epic “Shadows of the Apt” told in ten novels and followed up in three, soon to be four, companion books of short stories.
The first book in the series, Empire in Black and Gold, introduces readers to a world in which humans have evolved not from apes, but from various insects, arachnids, mollusks, and other species. Their evolutionary process is relatively young, and some species are more evolved than others. Indeed, some humans, such as those evolved from beetles and wasps, are apt, in this case meaning that they understand mechanical processes and have developed machines similar to our automobiles and airplanes.
Other humans, or kinden, in this world cannot operate a simple doorknob. These species are inapt. Spider-kinden, moth-kinden, and butterfly-kinden fall into this category.
Individual members of each kinden develop arts inherited from their species. For example, wasp, bee, fly, and moth kinden can all fly. Some kinden have excellent night vision. Spider-kinden are adept at deception, and scorpion-kinden are fierce warriors.
I must admit that at the beginning I was somewhat put off by the kinden tag, but soon it seemed natural as the story and characters developed. And Tchaikovsky is a master at developing a universe of characters and juggling multiple story lines.
Without giving too much away, the wasp-kinden have grand plans to dominate the world, and it falls to a loose coalition of other kinden to attempt to prevent this from happening with varying degrees of success and failure. As one might imagine there are barriers to peaceful coexistence between the varied kinden. Prejudices against, and preconceived notions about different kinden make for delicate negotiations. There are traitors and spies, turncoats and heroes among all the kinden.
Tchaikovsky writes battle scenes that make one feel as if they are right there in the middle of the action, too. I’m not a particularly violence-prone person, but the author made me believe that I might be able to go toe to toe with a wasp, as long as I stayed beyond the range of his vicious sting.
I came to care about so many of these characters: Cheerwell Maker, a young beetle-kinden, and her uncle Stenwold,; Thalric, a conflicted wasp-kinden; and Taki, an amazing fly-kinden. My only complaint is that there aren’t more books in the series.
As I read “Shadows of the Apt” I couldn’t help but wonder which kinden I’d be. A purposeful beetle? Maybe. A sensual spider? Hardly. A graceful butterfly? Hahaha! A war-like wasp? Could be. Chances are, I’d be a slug; although, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ll have to read the series to discover why.
Peace, and happy reading, people.