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Review: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Shadows of the Apt #1)

Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt 1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky 
From the back of the book

The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbors.

But meanwhile, in far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, it killing Art . . . And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable.

Only the aging Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer 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 a 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.

My rating:   5 out of 5

Bookshelf: Yes

How I got it: Bought

 My natural aversion to bugs kept me from picking this up for quite a while.  I finally picked the book up when I was in a “facing my fears” mode, and I’m so glad I did.  First, in order to clarify a little, the book is not about bugs. The characters in this book are defined by the Ancestors from which they “evolved”.  These races, for lack of a better term, have each developed special gifts or abilities that are characteristic of their namesakes.  The Beetle Kinden, for example, are often hard-working, full of stamina, and unfortunately end up on the broad side of physical appearances.  I loved how the author uses the characteristics of certain bugs to develop the people of this world. Loved it.

This action/adventure fantasy novel started off a little awkwardly for me personally because I didn’t know what to expect, but everything cleared up after the first 50 pages or so.  Once that confusion was cleared up I got wrapped up in the story of adventure, espionage,war, action, romance, and betrayal that I finished this rather quickly and immediately had to get the second one. I’m timing my completion of the third installment with the release of the fourth. Such torture!  I enjoyed the characters and wanted to find out what they did next. There’s a medievalesque atmosphere, but there’s also some technology thrown in, not hi-tech, but more steampunkish. Although, this really isn’t a “steampunk” novel.  I’m not sure exactly how to describe what that would make it. Who needs a label anyway, right?

And how about that cover? It’s beautiful. I tend to get hooked by the cover art, which doesn’t always work out so well. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the covers that PYR have put out and most, if not all, have had the story to back it up.

Empire in Black in Gold is the first in the Shadows of the Apt series.  It is immediately followed by Dragonfly Falling (#2) and Shadow of the Mantis (#3), and there are more in the series after that.