Adrian Tchaikovsky – The Scarab Path

After the first four books of the Shadows Of The Apt series Adrian Tchaikovsky concluded the main story arc. This steampunk fantasy series could have ended there but with many things still open to explore the story continues as a story is never truly done.

In The Scarab Path (2010) Tchaikovsky takes the reader to unexplored territory, thus expanding his world. There are several changes to his storytelling. Instead of keeping all main characters in the picture he makes a selection while a new set of characters is added in this novel. Whereas this happened also in the previous novels these new side characters play a much more prominent role. While the previous novels had several unrelated storylines there are now much fewer and they are also closely related with plenty of interaction. The locations also remain more static and constrained.

All these limitations allow for a much more focused story. There is more time to develop the old and new characters. In that sense it is a vast improvement to the previous novels. I felt a stronger connection to the characters and the side characters were far less two dimensional.

Although the story itself finally explores some of the history of Tchaikovsky’s world he doesn’t do so in a very original way. At first I though he would get into it sooner in the story, which would leave space for more intricate development, but the pace slowed down, moving it to the end. With that the exploration remained limited and in the end with little impact. After I completed the book I wondered if there would be any real impact and that this was mainly a standalone side story to provide a setting for some developments which I considered to be of minor importance. I assume some things will play a later role, but I don’t think it will have serious impact.

Overall this fifth installment has its strengths and weaknesses, making it not better or worse than the previous novels. In a certain way this is certainly not bad. Tchaikovsky shows that he can do more and improve in areas that I thought him weak before. However, the improvements weakened other elements, so there is not sufficient balance yet to lift the series to a higher level. The main issue that I have with this series that the plot or story doesn’t impress me. It is solid, entertaining and without flaws but doesn’t thrill me due to a certain simplicity and lack of deeper layers and background. Either way, its a very enjoyable read and I do recommend it to any fantasy fan.

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