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Title: Heirs of the Blade
Series: Shadows of the Apt #7
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
Che, dragging Thalric in her wake, goes on a quest to save her foster-sister Tynisa, who has gone off into the hinterlands of the Commonweal to die nobly as a true Mantis would. Even though Tynisa is half-spider and looks fully spider-kinden.
Che, in her chase of Tynisa, must face the fact that she, Cheerwell Maker, is now a magician and inextricably linked with Seda the Wasp Empress as a cosmic joke by the Slug-kinden. Che has terrible premonitions about the Seal of the Worm, something so terrible that no one will talk to her about it and it has pretty much been erased from the history books. At the same time, with the ghost of Achaoes excised, Che begins to realize she is falling in love with Thalric, even with their horrible history.
Tynisa has a view of the Commonweal based on what she was of Salme Dien before he died. Unfortunately, Dien was a truly noble Dragonfly and the rest of his family and most of the nobles in fact, are nothing more than the usual spoilt aristocracy with no desire to actually shoulder their responsibilities. Tynisa ends up being possessed by her father’s ghost, who had survived the destruction of the Darakyon box by haunting Che. When he was cast out by the Slug-kinden he was free to go where he wanted and ended up possessing Tynisa. This gave her all of his skill but also all of his twisted up ideas and thoughts. She hooks up with the Salme family and becomes a merchant of death for them against a peasant rebellion.
Che and Thalric hook up with a necromancer who promises she can free Tynisa from Tisamon’s ghost. It doesn’t go so well at first but eventually Tynisa is freed and end up siding with the rebels. The Salme family is brought to bloody justice by the King of the Commonweal for their multiple abuses of power.
While all of that is going on, Seda makes a pilgrimage to Kanaphes, city of the Slug-kinden. Ostensibly to investigate the “black mineral” found out in the desert, which will transform her army and give her a true airforce, but in reality to seek out the Slug-kinden and wrest power from them. Already a powerful sorceress from her instructions from various Inapt mystics, Seda knows she is capable of more. The Slug-kinden grant her wish but link her to Che where each can occasionally have visions of what the other is doing, has done or will do.
The book ends with the Empire of Black and Gold on the move again and breaking all treaties signed to that time. War is come again.
I have to admit, I was hoping that this time this book would go up a half star, maybe even a full star from my previous read of it back in ’13. Earlier Shadows of the Apt had improved with a re-read and so my outlook was a rosy glow full of optimism and ♪Strength for ♪Today and Bright ♪Hope for Tomorrow♪ Sadly, it didn’t improve. However, it was just as good as the time before, so don’t take it that this was bad in any way.
This book is where the titular “Shadows” comes into play as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know what Tchaikovsky meant when he titled this Shadows of the Apt but I’ve taken it to mean that the Apt cast a long shadow and bad things happen within that shadow (ie, war). It can also mean that things exist in their shadow (ie, blindspot) that they aren’t aware of, like magic. Either way, this was a grim book full of shadows indeed. From Tynisa learning that the Commonweal was NOT a textbook fairytale filled with Heroes and Good Guys to Che sensing a glimpse of something truly horrific, to just the exigencies of war, it all casts a shadow.
There was another whole storyline in which Amnon, the First Champion of Kanaphes and his Collegium lover came back to Kanaphes and Dariandrephos and Totho are in the middle of trying to get the Iron Glave Consortium back into the good graces of the Empire. It started out feeling important and then just ends. That is one of the problems with a really big series. Not every storyline can be fully fleshed out.
My biggest issue that caused me to keep it at the same level as before is Che’s refusal to accept that she is a magician and that magic is real. It came up so often in this book, her lack of belief, that it got rather annoying. Even with EVERYTHING that happened in the previous book, she still doesn’t want to believe in magic. I wanted to slap her and tell her to accept reality as she knew it, not as she wanted it. And that was really my only complaint. So if people refusing to accept the truth before their eyes doesn’t bother you, then it might not affect your read of this at all.
Overall, this series is just fantastic. This re-read is really cementing my love of Tchaikovsky’s writing and the ideas he has. I no longer have any qualms about having bought all 10 books in trade paperback. Completely worth the money and the shelf-space.