Blood Of The Mantis (Shadows Of The Apt book three) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The race is on to find the mysterious Shadow Box that contains the legendary power of the Darakyon. Alvdan, the Wasp-kinden emperor, hopes to use it to gain eternal life with the help of his devious Mosquito-kinden slave, Uctebri, although he may have his own plans. Achaeon is also drawn to the power of the box and, as part of his pact with the spirits of the Darakyon, tries to track it down before it can fall into Wasp hands. The search leads them all to the town of Jerez where, below the peaceful surface of the lake, all is not as it first seems and where enemies may lurk around any corner. Meanwhile, Cheerwell and Nero have travelled to the Spiderlands in the hope of recruiting new allies and warning the people of the approach of the Wasp army and Stenwold must try to bring ancient enemies together to forge an alliance that will save the Lowlands. The Wasp army is still on the move and as they encroach on the Lowlands from all sides, it will take a unified force just to hold them back for a little while longer.
‘Blood Of The Mantis’ is the third novel in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ series, picking up the story right where we left it at the end of ‘Dragonfly Falling’. The third book is always a tricky point in a large series. Major characters have already been established and, as their quests diverge, the reader can find themselves following a large number of unrelated storylines in a single book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Readers who have stuck around until book three generally want to find out what happens to each character and how things work out, even if plot development occurs pretty slowly. In the case of ‘Blood Of The Mantis’, the first half does feel a bit like filler as we jump back and forth between three or four separate parts of the story in which we’re introduced to a few new places, which is nice, but not a lot really happens. However, I’m willing to forgive a slow starting section because, in the second half of the book, the pace picks up and we’re right back into the action that was so enjoyable in the first two books.
There are yet more new races introduced in ‘Blood Of The Mantis’ and I can’t help but be impressed at the way Tchaikovsky has managed to depict so many similar races while still retaining their individual characteristics. Each race has traits that correspond perfectly with the bugs with which they’re associated and sometimes I find myself imagining the physical form of beetles and spiders rather than the humanoids they really are. I’m curious to see how many more insects and other bugs will make an appearance before the series ends and, if it’s many more, I might need to obtain a book on entomology! It’s interesting stuff and does leave me with a desire to go out and find out more about the actual insects as well as simply enjoying the story, although I did already have a slight fascination with ants and swarm behaviours, so I’m easily swayed.
I’ve really been enjoying the ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ series and despite a slow start, ‘Blood Of The Mantis’ didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to sink your teeth into, this would feature high on my list of recommendations. The world is beautifully drawn, the characters are engaging and the style is unique. What more could I ask for?
(pub: TOR-UK. 427 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-230-70416-9)
check out website: www.panmacmillan.com