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Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian…

Empire in Black and Gold

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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After reading [b:Children of Time|25499718|Children of Time|Adrian Tchaikovsky|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1431014197s/25499718.jpg|45276208], I wanted to read some of Tchaikovsky’s other stuff, and especially for an early novel this was quite good. It’s also the start to a massive ten-book series.

This world is populated by a multitude of human races with insect and arachnid attributes: Wasps, Bees, Mantids, Spiders, Beetles, Ants, Dragonflies, Flies, etc. Collegium is a great melting pot of a city where our principal leads start out. Here the races are mostly treated equally although halfbreeds are generally looked down on in practice. Our leads cover a good cross section of the races, of course, and they’re sent on a mission to gather intelligence to try to convince the leaders of Collegium to act against the Wasps who are rumoured to be preparing to make their move to take over the Lowlands.

So a lot of the book is our leads travelling, witnessing the Wasp preparations, travelling behind enemy lines so to speak, and a lot of the people they meet not believing that it will actually come to war with the Wasps because of the treaty. A treaty that the Wasps apparently renegotiated at one point to declare that a particular city-state wasn’t actually part of the Lowlands so the rest of the Lowlands shouldn’t be worried if they attack it. There’s a little more to the book than that, but I don’t want to get into actual plot spoilers.

I initially found the ending a bit abrupt, but I think that’s just because I had forgotten that my copy had several short stories at the end (ebook), and so I was still expecting something substantial to need to be resolved when it ended. So upon further reflection, the ending was fine. There’s a lead into the next book, but it’s not a cliffhanger ending. This first book really just covers the very start of the war, so there is more to that arc, but the book has its own contained story arc that I thought was well-resolved.

I really liked the world with all the different races, some of which are apt (read: can understand crossbows and mechanisms) and the rest of which are inapt (read: confounded by crossbows and mechanisms). Each race has their own Ancestor Art, which sounds like magic because it lets some of them fly, but seems to be more magic related to the body: strengthening eyesight, flying, clinging to walls. There is also magic in this world, which not all the races believe in. This seems to involve more mental abilities like reading minds or knowing things at a distance. Apparently Art is not magic in the minds of the races or kinden.

I haven’t decided what my next Tchaikovsky should be: I can either read the second book in this series or one of his newer works.
( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: Empire in Black and Gold
Series: Shadows of the Apt #1
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 628
Format: Ebook


20 years ago, Stenwold Maker, along with his friends, attempt to save a city that is being invaded by the Wasp Empire. After failing, the friends go their separate ways and pursue their own agendas. Stenwold heads back to Collegium, to raise awareness of the danger of the Wasp Empire. Nobody listens and as the years pass, Stenwold becomes something of a byword and dismissed as an alarmist crackpot. But Stenwold knows that the Wasps will come and he begins training various college graduates to become his spy ring.

Now, Stenwold's niece and adopted daughter have graduated and the Wasp Empire is on the move again. His hand being forced, Stenwold sends out Che (his niece) and her friends before he can truly train them. Thrown into a situation beyond their knowledge, the group must grow or die. The whole of the Lowlands is in danger but if Collegium falls, the whole Lowlands will follow quickly. Collegium is the one City State that accepts all Kindens and is a center of Knowledge.

My Thoughts: Spoilers?

(For clarity's sake, I read this back in February 2010) This was just as good as my previous read.

Tchaikovsky does a good job of introducing us to the main characters, the various nation states and the politics of what is going on. It's a tall order but unlike Erikson, Tchaikovksy doesn't just drop us in and leave us to sink or swim. Information is unfolded as we need it and I never felt like there were info dumps. However, I don't have a hate of infodumps like some, so take that as you may.

I had forgotten, or never realized, just how grim this book was. The little blurb on the cover says "The Days of Peace are Over" and my goodness, does that fit. I knew the series never lightened up but had forgotten how it started. It doesn't fall into Grimdark, but it sure isn't happy and upbeat. Magician by Raymond Feist might be the opposite of this. This is not a "plucky group of youngsters overcome the Evil Empire". It is a novel of War. A novel about how a group of friends can't stay together forever. Pushed and pulled, each character must go their own way and develop on their own.

These are not under developed characters. Tchaikovsky really delves into motivations and what drives them. It is the type of character development that I like. The flaws of their society are evident and are as much a part of the story as anything. Nor does Tchaikovsky turn into a bloody SJW [social justice warrior] and try to make some seriously skewed political point. Thank goodness for authors who aren't flaming idiots.

To end this, this volume I read had several short stories at the end of book. Those stories are what pushed this from a 4star book to a 5star book. One in particular dealt with the magic of this world. It was a ghost story that left you wondering, was it really a ghost story or a scam? Either way, it worked really well.

Good stuff and I'm satisfied that I bought this in paperback. ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Feb 9, 2017 |
set in a world where humans are insect aspected, by kind, ant-kinden, mantis kinden, moth kinden, wasp kinden, etc. The Wasp Empire is rolling over the known world and 20 years earlier a group of friends watched a city fall and vowed to prepare for the time when the Empire came to their homes.

That time is now. Follows 4 main characters who are proteges of one of those original friends. Their adventures as they begin to learn about and try to combat the threat of the Wasp Kinden Empire.

It is very well written, but weird with humans having insect aspects and certain powers. Weird but very original. ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
Interesting world building, ginormous series. We'll see how the rest are. ( )
  shopsinc | May 1, 2016 |
There's a lot to like about this book. Epic scope, lots of action and romance and adventure. It captivated me. The idea of people who can fly, categorized by bug properties, was innovative and cool. Since readers know about bugs, we can guess at the properties of each kinden, which alleviates the need for a ton of fantasy jargon. I especially loved the dialogue, eloquent and otherworldly and really well written.

But ... I'm probably not going to read ten books in this series. I never fully immersed in the world of this story, because several things didn't make enough sense to me. It didn't feel fully thought-through.

First and foremost: In this world of different kinden (races), hybrids or half-breeds are shunned and abused. No one likes them. Yet several main characters are half-breeds, and they seem to possess super-powers inherited from both species. So, um, why is it such a taboo? Not only that, but interracial love seems pretty commonplace in this world. So if different races find each other attractive, and can have children together who inherit awesome powers from both races, why does anyone have a problem with it? Why are there such distinct races in the first place? It makes absolutely zero sense.

Secondly, I never got much of a sense of struggle from these characters. They just inherited powers, and kicked ass. There were some interesting character traits, but also a lot of tropes played straight.

The story was a wild ride, and fairly unpredictable, but I need more from fantasy characters and a fantasy world setting. Still, this was a fun book, and an author to watch.

( )
1 vote Abby_Goldsmith | Feb 10, 2016 |
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To Annie, without whom many things would not have been possible.
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After Stenwold picked up the telescope for the ninth time, Marius said, "You will know first from the sound."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Seventeen years ago Stenwold witnessed the Wasp Empire storming the city of Myna in a brutal war of conquest. Since then he has preached vainly against this threat in his home city of Collegium, but now the Empire is on the march, with its spies and its armies everywhere, and the Lowlands lie directly in its path. All the while, Stenwold has been training youthful agents to fight the Wasp advance, and the latest recruits include his niece, Che, and his mysterious ward, Tynisa. When his home is violently attacked, he is forced to send them ahead of him and, hotly pursued, they fly by airship to Helleron, the first city in line for the latest Wasp invasion.

Stenwold and Che are Beetle-kinden, one of many human races that take their powers and inspiration each from a totem insect, but he also has allies of many breeds: Mantis, Spider, Ant, with their own particular skills. Foremost is the deadly Mantis-kinden warrior, Tisamon, but other very unlikely allies also join the cause. As things go from bad to worse amid escalating dangers, Stenwold learns that the Wasps intend to use the newly completed railroad between Helleron and Collegium to launch a lightning strike into the heart of the Lowlands. Then he gathers all of his agents to force a final showdown in the engine yard . . .

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The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades. In far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies and its machines .... And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable.… (more)

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