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Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Heirs of the Blade" by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Shadows of the Apt Website
Order "Heirs of the Blade" HERE
Read FBC Review of "Empire in Black and Gold"
Read FBC Review of "Dragonfly Falling"
Read FBC Review of "Blood of the Mantis"
Read FBC Review of "Salute the Dark"
Read FBC Review of "The Scarab Path"
Read FBC Review of "The Sea Watch"
Read FBC Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

INTRODUCTION: There is no secret that in the past three years the Shadows of the Apt has become one of my favorite ongoing fantasy series for its combination of superb world building, great characters and extreme inventiveness. Salute the Dark ended quite emphatically the first part of the series dealing with the war between the Collegium and the Empire in Black and Gold, while The Scarab Path, a standalone withing the larger series context, has been my personal favorite to date and I rated it the best fantasy of 2010.

In The Sea Watch the author changed the feel and the focus from the heavily atmospheric and magical, to a fast adventure style with a science fictional bent and while I enjoyed it quite a lot, I missed the more "doom and gloom" darkness of the magical world.

I strongly recommend to go and get the first six books and read them before proceeding further here, though I will try to keep the spoilers to the minimum possible. Be warned that even the blurb of Heirs of the Blade consists of huge spoilers for the ending of the first part.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: In talking about Heirs of the Blade, there are at least three aspects to consider. The writing style, the way the book belongs in the series as characters and feel and the way it belongs as storyline. I will just mention that the more we are advancing in the series, the better the author has been getting at writing technique and Heirs of the Blade just flows on the page.

But the real tests of the novel are in the second and third parts since it is easy for long series to get bogged down in repetition of events, sameness of "feel" and generally leave the impression that the author copied and pasted from an earlier book and just changed a little here and there.

And I am happy to say that Heirs of the Blade overall passes these tests with flying colors and I will explain why I think so. The novel focuses on Tynisa, Che, Thalric and Seda, while introducing several new characters that play important roles here, as well as bringing back some characters from earlier novels and short stories, most notably Felipe Shah, Angved, Praeda and Ammon. Geographically, most of the action takes place in the part of the Commonweal visited in earlier novels too, but there is a lot of surveying of the wreckage of the Wasp invasion in its eastern parts and we return to Khanaphes and the Nem desert too for some memorable scenes. As usually, new kinden are introduced.

As can be seen from the above, Heirs of the Blade is a direct follow-up of The Scarab Path though it also references Blood of the Mantis/Salute the Dark too and has a clear "this is what's next" ending which neither The Scarab Path nor The Sea Watch had. Chronologically Heirs of the Blade seems to be parallel to The Sea Watch, so one indeed can say that the book concludes the "middle part" of the 10 volume series after the first part of four volumes and with the last part of three volumes to come in 2012 and beyond.

Heirs of the Blade is a pure fantasy book in many ways - though there is a technological advance subplot - and it has the most magic so far, reading like a major amplification of the magic in The Scarab Path; the feel is dark and moody and it works extremely well.

Nothing symbolizes this better than the famous prophecy line from Salute the Dark which I thought I understood at the time but it seems to be even deeper, as now someone else utters it in trance, adding more:

"Falling leaves, red and brown and black and gold." "A rain of burning machines over a city of the Apt. The darkness between trees. The Seal of the Worm is breaking."

There is a lot of action - fights and duels, intrigue and skirmishes, while the overall feel is one of darkness descending and the characters trying to keep it at bay a moment longer; another line emphasizes this:

"Let us have peace and prosperity, as much as this late age allows it."

And of course the ending is the final masterstroke of the novel, being an homage to one of the most cliched tropes of sff and which worked really well. So the stage is now set for the last part of the series and while through both volume five and six, I have wondered where the author intends to go, now there is a clear sense of the storyline. I am still wondering where the events of The Sea Watch will fit, since now that novel rather than The Scarab Path feels a little out of joint as the series goes heavily magic rather than sfnal. Very interesting times are announced for the Kinden world and I am eager to be there.

Overall, Heirs of the Blade (A++) was the Shadow of the Apt novel I have expected after the awesome The Scarab Path and it immediately jumped into my top ten novels of the year.


Matt said...

Any news on when Sea Watch and this book will be available in the US?

Liviu said...

I am not seeing it in the Pyr catalog or on Amazon, though I have not heard of cancellation of US publication either, so no idea for now but will inquire

Marek Lach said...

Maybe it will be because of this? ... The author himself reported new covers for books 3 and 4 as well.

Liviu said...

I saw those covers too but they are all for Macmillan UK editions in the new tpb (rather than mmpb) format;

The new format is gorgeous, looks much, much better than the smaller book - I should have mentioned this in my review, but I forgot

Matt said...

The lack of US publication news is bothering me. We've gotten through 5 books and I would hate to think that the series will not be completed by Pyr. Come on Pyr, you've made a commitment, see it through and publish these books!!!

MaddLion said...

I just found it on Amazon for $21 shipping and handeling. For some odd reason, only 5 books show up on the site under the author's name. I googled the title and Bam!

MaddLion said...

Amazon has it for sale. $21.66 with S&H.
Google the title instead of the author.


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