The 9th installment in the Shadows of the Apt series continues the momentum of the previous books. While it didn't pack the same punch as DRAGONFLY FALLING and THE SCARAB PATH (my two favourite books in the series) it did have a number of shock and awe moments that I didn't see coming, despite being a long-time series reader.
Tchaikovsky thrusts the plentiful cast into all out war spanning multiple fronts with varied forms of conflict. There's magic, traditional warefare (both on land and in the skies) and face to face combat. There are casualties, and for readers of THE AIR WAR (book #8), some of those 'second generation' Collegium characters may not be around as long as first thought.
Che and Seda, the beetle and the wasp Empress find themselves in the forests of Etheryon and Nethyon in search of a powerful magic seemingly guarded/owned by the mysterious Argastos, a War Master of sorts who holds a supernatural-like grip on their respective quests. Accompanied by their faithful band of warriors, both are faced with bloodshed, heartache and a doom far greater than any wasp-Lowland conflict could result in.
While Stenwold continues to fight valiantly against the might of the wasp empire as they march towards Collegium, Sarn (Ant city state), and Princep Salma. Aided by the force of the Spiderlands, General Tynan and his Second Army are ruthless in their mission to expand upon the empires influence and boundary. However, the alliance with Mycella and her spiders is far from strong with deception a possibility throughout proceedings.
As usual there is a lot going on in these books which at times made it hard to take in all the crucial events/character exchanges. However, I found that by reading large chunks at a time, the story read seamlessly and I was able to retain much more than reading in small bursts.
WAR MASTER'S GATE sets the scene for the next installment perfectly (THE SEAL OF THE WORM). Without giving anything away, the series look set to head in a completely different direction - given the ramifications of WAR MASTER'S GATE, I'm interested to see how Tchaikovsky brings his wounded and segregated characters back to the battlefield.
A great and epic read - as usual. Shadows of the Apt is my all time favourite fantasy series.