Adrian Tchaikovksy – Blood Of The Mantis

For now this is the last of three consecutive reviews of Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Shadows Of The Apt series. The third book is called Blood Of The Mantis (2009) and continues the story of the events that took place in the previous two novels of this epic steampunk fantasy. Actually the story takes a turn as the final events of the previous book have caused the main antagonist (an expansionist empire) to find its’ momentum stalled while internal affairs are causing new problems.

Blood Of The Mantis follows three storylines of which two take the main characters, of a still expanding cast, to new places, which remains a habit of Tchaikovsky, as in every books he explorers different places in his world. Still it remains so that each place only gets a limited exposure to present some original traits and local culture. We still don’t get a true feeling for the places we visit. It remain superficial.

Each story arc is actually not that complex although plenty of small things happen. Only because the three arcs are interwoven you get the idea many things are happening. This book also lacks the mini story arcs of the previous books, in which there were real events which were concluded within a few chapters. The reader has to do with the three arcs which are hardly related to each other.

What also lacks in this book is character development. The characters do not undergo changes as the events in the arcs have far less impact. They could be seen as average quests. Although entertaining enough, it makes this third book weaker than the first two.

After three books I can say that Shadows Of The Apt carries it strength on two pillars. The first is the original insect aspect of the different races. It provides Tchaikovsky with a wide range of possibilities and variations. In each book he adds new ones. The second is based on the different cultures these insect aspects provide. The main story arcs do not really provide something new. Even with such original cultural aspects, Tchaikovsky does stick to standard forms for his plot. There is of course originality in the details that compensate this, but overall we never go into depth, it remains superficial. This certainly shows when one tries to delve into the background of the different cultures, their history, development and more details of the different societies. There hardly is any. The story lacks deeper layers. The mysteries do not have great complexity. It is all sufficient to the purpose of the greater story but nothing more. It obviously is a choice of the author. Some like to keep the story accessible for different readers or to themselves. I have enjoyed reading these books, but I like more depth and that is the reason why this series (until now) is nowhere near my top list of books. It certainly is quite above any mainstream fantasy due to its original concepts which are used exquisitely, but its lack of depth and, I should no forget, attachment I feel to the main characters, is what keeps it from reaching a higher level.

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