Today is publication day of THE AIR WAR, book 8 in Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Shadows of the Apt series. SCI-FI-LONDON Literary Editor Robert Grant approaches the end of his great big reread of this series with THE SEA WATCH, book 6.
After the events at Khanaphes the election for a new speaker favours Jordy Drillen, an ally of Stenwolds, but for the Master Maker allies seem few and far between. The increase in shipping since the land war has prompted attacks on ships leaving Collegium’s harbour, some sunk by pirates, others just vanishing without trace. Lies and deceit on all sides means Sten faces betrayal at every turn, and even though a tenuous peace with the Wasp Empire holds, they will strike at any sign of weakness in Collegium. Meanwhile, a darker and more sinister force is massing with it’s eyes on the Beetle-Kinden city.
Such is the depth of Tchaikovsky’s Apt world and such is his skill at world-building that he can continuously add to it, keeping it fresh and interesting for readers of the series while still telling fabulous tales of derring-do. As the title suggests The Sea Watch does indeed head out to sea, but where The Scarab Path was Che’s book, this story very much belongs to Stenwold Maker, and after a few books with him in a minor role it’s good to see him centre stage, especially in a book that reveals a whole new layer of the Apt world - one with hints of science fiction even - and opens possibilities for even more to come.
This a much more back-to-action book than our last outing, with relentless pacing that provides the reader with a page-turning ride. We start to see the various plot threads weave themselves together, building towards another huge finale, and once again no-one is safe as Tchaikovsky has no compunction in killing-off favourite characters. The water-kinden prove as diverse and fascinating as any we’ve met so far and along with the Kerebroi, the Onychoi (the crab-kinden warriors from the cover), the Echinoi and the Krakind we also get the gearpunk goodies in the form of submersibles with engines based on springs and siphons so that they work underwater. It’s all brilliant as usual.
Fans of the series thus far will not be disappointed and while six books might be a lot of reading I’d urge newcomers to get stuck in and join the fun, it’s a wild and epic ride.