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Adrian Tchaikovsky The Air War (Shadows of the Apt)

I never thought I’d be 8 books into a 10 book fantasy series. But then I never anticipated a fantasy series starting as an espionage novel developing through stories of war & personal transformation and mutating in this volume to a harrowing portrayal of total war. The Wasps are on the march again & they have new toys & new friends.

In previous volumes inapt warriors have evoked images of Conan or Elric hacking through tons of disposable opponents. This volume feels like last huzzah of lethal mantids & dragonflys as the full flowers of a steampunk blitzkrieg stamp on the face of the world.

Character-wise there are wonderful moments in the conspiracy in Capitas the Wasp capital, the struggles & sabotage in Colligieum and the pilots in the skies above it. AT doesn’t start with the lazy if alluring premise that all characters are shits (like say Abercrombie) but most are decent people pushed and pulled into poor or cruel decisions by winds of culture, circumstance & survival. They are more believable characters for it, any coolness they lose replaced by real
empathy & even affection in this reader.

The ‘mystic shit’ plot likely to dominate the final volume is well played and surprisingly doesn’t feel like it’s pulling against the technological stories of war. This surprised me as in this & A Song of Fire and Ice I’ve been impatient with the magical storylines preferring the more ‘realistic’ politics.

I have some niggles (someone needs to
Invent the bayonet,) but they are incredibly minor. It’s a cracking read but best get in at the start with empire of black & gold.

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