Review: Empire In Black And Gold (Shadows Of The Apt book 1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace and prosperity for decades: bastions of civilization and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbours.
But Meanwhile, in a far-off corners, a warlike Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, its killing Art … And now its hunger for conquest and bloodshed has become insatiable.
Only the ageing Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path. But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire’s latest victim.

Insect-kinden, Orthopters, And a world on the brink of destructive change. Strap yourselves in; its one hell of a ride.

At the beginning of the book we are introduced to the ageing artificer, Stenwold Maker. Stenwold is a beetle-kinden who, after the fall of Myna, spends seventeen years readying himself and the Collegium for the invasion of the black and gold Empire- the Wasp-kinden. Stenwold’s fears of a wasp swarm enslaving the lowlands, go ignored by his elders, but still he seeks to make them see what is going on beyond the Lowlands. He is a man without compromise and, Mr Tchaikovsky, has crafted a character full of intrigue and mystery. There is something about Stenwold, in which you just know he has something up his sleeve, and knows a lot more than he let’s on. Stenwold reminded me of one of my favourite fictional spies, David Audley, in the way he appears to be always observing the board, but never gives his next move away.
Stenwold recruits participants in the Duellists club from the Collegium, to help him gauge what the Wasps and their militia are up to. These include his niece, Cheerwell Maker (or Che), and his foster-daughter Tynisa who is Spider-kinden, as well as the Dragonfly, Salma and artificer apprentice, Totho.
Things quickly escalate when Stenwold’s life is endangered, and the decision is made to find out what the sneaky Wasps are up to. And Captain Thalric, Wasp-kinden soldier and member of the mysterious Rekef Is aiming to remove Stenwold from the game and to stop him interfering with the Empires plans.

Stenwolds group of duellists, (now turned spies) are thrown into a world of danger, mystery and treachery. No one knows who to trust, and the Apt and Inapt don’t all get along, shall we say. Tynisa, Che, Salma, and Totho rely on their friendship and Stenwold’s guidance to get through this. The Collegium four, (as I’ve named them), grow over the course of the book and reading how the characters are continually adapting to their surroundings and circumstances, is very exciting. I especially enjoyed the character of Tynisa, who for me, has many layers, and Mr Tchaikovsky shows some of those layers in a subplot regarding her character and another, in what could only be described as emotional.

Mr Tchaikovsky, has created a stunning world in which not everyone sees antennae to antennae.
I was gripped from start to finish and loved the way that technology- like airships, automotives, repeater crossbows, and more developed weaponry, were not just placed in gratuitously but became part of the world and belonged there.

All insect-kinden have something that is known as the Art for example the Dragonflies and Wasps (among others), can take flight with the help of them summoning their art. Other examples of the Art are the Wasp’s deadly sting-bolt.
The way the art is described is that it is totally different from magic, (something that the Apt cannot believe in or comprehend), whilst the traditions of the Inapt (such as the Moths), have built their lives around it to some degree.
What fascinates me is that to anyone, an insect-kinden unfurling their art-wings would be deemed as magic, as would the sting-bolt be. Yet the two couldn’t be more different in this world that Mr. Tchaikovsky has built. This is defined by the character’s attitudes toward art and magic I.e especially Che’s thoughts and opinions.
Another aspect of Empire In Black And Gold is the idea of progress. What is it? And how it is achieved, or should progress be something that one should leave to happenstance! As opposed to making it happen for better or worse. For example, is building machines of all kinds infringing on the natural progression of things, or is the natural progression of how the world works, hindering it? The Apt vs the Inapt. To build or to let grow. Each of the races ideals, to how the world should work, conflict with one anothers. Not to mention, some of the races have harboured years of contempt for others. And with the threat of war looming ever closer, this attitude is not about to change quickly.
However, that’s not to say it won’t.

Now the heightening threat of an Empire In Black And Gold, leaves the Lowlands with a choice, “Unity or Slavery.”

Adrian Tchaikovsky has written a superbly crafted and well written novel, full of adventure, mystery, danger, that grips you from page one. An unique story of epic proportions and insects that would give Gil Grissom (from C.S.I) an absolute field day. Everything about this book I adored, and wanted to learn more about the characters and how they grew and dealt with events that occurred.
All I can say is, the Apt and Inapt await you! This book is a must-read and I cannot wait to read more.


For more information about the author and for awesome extras, check out Adrian can also be found on twitter @aptshadow. This book is available now from Tor UK.
Thankyou to the publishers for providing me with this book