I picked up Empire in Black and Gold on discount in my local bookstore on sort of a whim. Once I’d gotten it however I didn’t hurry to read it as I had other good books and I’d never heard about Adrian Tchaikovsky or his books. Once I began reading however, I found myself in a state I don't often do: I couldn’t put the book down.
The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade an a belief in the respectable nature of their neighbors.When reading Empire in Black and Gold you have to slowly immerse yourself in the world Tchaikovsky has imagined because it is quite a peculiar one. The Shadow of the Apt series takes place in a land known as the Lowlands. It is made up of a few independent cities that are often as not fighting each other. Nothing unusual yet. There is, though, a twist to this: each city has inhabitants of a different race of humans, each taking attributes from an insect. So you find the beetles of Collegium and Helleron, The ants of Sarn, Tark or Vek, the Flies of Merro and Egel and so on. What is most interesting is that from their insect counterpart each race, called kinden in the novel, derives powers, called their Art. So since flies can fly, so can the Fly Kinden. Ants can communicate telepathically, so can the Ant Kinden.
But meanwhile, in far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, its killing Art...And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable.
Only the aging Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificier 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 the 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.
I would describe Empire in Black and Gold as a book that focuses more on the plot than the characters though we still get to see quite a lot of growth and development from our main cast. The book is not without its flaws, but for a first novel Tchaikovsky's work stands solidly. This first novel in the Shadows of the Apt series makes for a strong entrance into its world and plot, a story that in the end promises to be of very epic and thrilling dimensions.
Read this book. It’s as simple as that. I wouldn’t say it’s y favorite book in the world (that would be statement to come to) but it’s still up there in my very good reads. Empire in Black and Gold is absolutely worth the read and with its sequels it gets even better. If you like epic fantasy and some strange fantasy world-building this is for you. There is also a certain element of steampunk added to the novel as the Apt (as in the title of the series) are those that can use mechanical tools and vehicles, such as crossbows, airships, trains, factories etc, so those that are into steampunk might have an interest in that...
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Reading Age: 14 and up
Violence: some fight scenes that are best described as alley brawls with swords, crossbows and balls of fire…
Sex/Language: No language that I remember. One or two sex scenes, but nothing terribly explicit.
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s website: http://shadowsoftheapt.com/ (there is quite a bit of interesting bonus stuff about the series there)
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