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Title: Blood of the Mantis
Series: Shadows of the Apt #3
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
The Wasp Empire is taking a breather after the beating they took in the previous book. But that does not mean that they are not advancing. Two “independent” cities on the outskirts of the lowlands have come to the attention of the Empire as alternate entry points to defeating Collegium and their wrangling allies.
One of those cities happens to be the center of smuggling for vast swathes of country around. Into this city has come the Box of the Darakyon, put up for sale by Scyla. Stenwold sends a group to this city to scope out it’s chances of becoming an ally and if possible to recover the Box. Led by Achaeos, Tisamon, Tynisa, Thalric and a rogue Wasp head out to recover it. Up against them are various collectors, mystics and agents of the Empire.
The other city is on the border of the Spiderlands. If the Empire can be provoked into starting their war on yet another front, it would relieve pressure on the Lowlands. Chi and Nero,the fly artist, are sent in but by the time they actually arrive, the Empire has already started moving in its troops. By making deals with the local spider lords, the Empire hopes to take the city without inciting the Spiderlands.
During all this, the Bee kinden begin a revolt and Tothos and Dr. Drephos are tasked with putting into play Drephos’ new weapon against the bees. Emperor Alvdan II continues his frantic search for eternal life and the Mosquito mystic continues his game, whatever that may be.
We get a rest from the “War” but the fighting continues. Wars require allies and vassals and Stenwold is at his best as Spymaster. Dealing in the shadows, working behind the scenes, Stenwold is not at his best as the public face of Collegium as a Warmaster. But with that being his lot, he must once again send out those he loves and cares for to do the dirty work.
The ‘magic’ side of things really starts to become more prominent and just like the hints from before, it would seem that all magic is nasty stuff. It was used to enslave, to control and it brought out the worst in those who used it, or attracted the worst kind of character. It is dark and scary and I have to wonder how the Apt kinden ever threw off the chains of magic that the InApt used to enslave them.
This book was kind of depressing because there just doesn’t seem to be any hope for stopping the Wasp Empire. Stall them, delay them, yes. But put a stop to their expansion? There does not appear to be a way. The Empire is already showing signs of moral decay. Alvdan’s quest for immortality and fear of death is almost the face of what is wrong with the Wasps as a whole. Their warrior ethos is softening and decaying into mere cruelty and wantoness.
Honestly, I am not liking this series as much as I did the first time around. Every new book I was looking for Hope. I was looking for Heroes. I was looking for that Something Better to rise from the ashes of Defeat, pain and suffering writ on its body but it’s spirit of grim resolve and determination to win unbroken and only strengthened by adversity. What I got was a story of what happens when ordinary people do their best against overwhelming odds. They do not always win. That is a tough nut to chew on.