Seal Of The Worm (Shadows Of The Apt book 10) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (book review).

The ten book epic fantasy series ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ by Adrian Tchaikovsky is brought to a close with ‘Seal Of The Worm’. At the end of book 9, ‘War Master’s Gate’, the Worm had been released, the seal trapping them underground shattered by Seda’s magical rage against Cheerwell (Che) Maker. With Che and her companions trapped in the dark, magic-free underground world and the Worm breaking free to consume the world above, Seda prepares a desperate plan to undo the harm she has done. Meanwhile, her armies of Wasps are fighting a war they no longer understand, engaging in battles they cannot win and losing faith in their Empress and her cryptic orders. Rebellion in the Wasp armies is almost unheard of but they, too, are getting desperate. As Collegium and the Lowland cities fight against the Wasps, joined by their allies from under the sea, neither group realise the Worm is catching up with all of them and, if the Worm prevails, no-one will be spared.


‘War Master’s Gate’ had an exciting finale that set up ‘Seal Of The Worm’ to be an action-packed battle-filled fight to the finish line and on those points it certainly didn’t disappoint. We all know how well Adrian Tchaikovsky writes battle scenes, they’ve been the dominant feature of this lengthy series and I think I’d have felt cheated if it just fizzled out without a big battle to finish it off. Does it get repetitious? Maybe a little at times, but in this book Tchaikovsky brings together all the different kinden we’ve encountered through the series and, with them, they bring a wide range of tactical and fighting styles, so there is still plenty of variety. Plus, I don’t think anyone would have reached this stage in the series if they didn’t enjoy the battles.

Of course, in amongst all the fighting there are a few softer moments to allow us to sit back and enjoy some time with the characters. I’m certainly quite attached to them by now! They are perhaps a little neglected in this book, but I don’t think we’ve got many new ones appearing, so they’re all quite familiar and they can be left to get on with things without too much exploration of their personalities and backgrounds. I think I’d have liked a little bit more, but it works fine.

The ending of such a long series is always going to be a tricky one to write and it’s inevitable that some people will be disappointed. I think that it was an ok ending, but the big scary Worm was under-used and the action containing them was a bit rushed. We never got to experience real fear from the kinden living above ground and it’s a shame, as I thought it had potential to build into something much more frightening than it did. I also wasn’t wild about the epilogue showing things 3 years after the conclusion of the main events. Yes, it was nice to see what the characters were up to, but I’d have been happy enough to leave them at the end of the action and wonder how things would work out. That’s just my taste, though, as I don’t mind if everything isn’t neatly wrapped up, but I know many people that prefer things to be tidied up at the end.

It’s hard to comment on this book without taking into account the rest of the series, so I’ll finish up with a few general thoughts about ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ as a whole. It’s an impressive series, both in terms of the sheer scale of the world-building and in the plots Tchaikovsky manages to carry through it. It’s hard to sustain such a long story arc and I think it was done really well, with only a very slight dip somewhere around book 3. The plot and characters just kept you moving along with them so that really there was no choice but to see it through to the end!

Well done, Mr. Tchaikovsky, I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

Vinca Russell

November 2014

(pub: TOR-UK/PanMacmillan. 500 page enlarged paperback. Price: £11.99 (UK), $ (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-23077-001-0)

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