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This review is from: Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt) (Paperback)
If Shadows of the Apt were a TV show, then Salute The Dark would be the epic two-part season climax, where all the season's plot threads and character arcs come together, and there's a great big fight and a general clearing of the decks for season 2.
So what do we have with this, the fourth novel in the Shadows sequence? We see Tchaikovsky's opus reaching a crescendo, is what, and it's a bloody fun ride. Emphasis on the bloody.
There's a lot of death in the novel, some of it shocking and unexpected, as much-liked characters present from the start of the series are scythed down. Some of these demises are genuinely upsetting. This winnowing of characters is important, though, because it gives us the feeling that this really is it, this is the big one, and none of our heroes might survive the day. You really don't know who's going to survive - or if anyone is.
As such, it gives the novel a sense of mythic scale and sense of urgency the previous books only hinted at. I read this book in three days flat, and begrudged any time when I was dragged away from it for such boring duties as eating, sleeping and going to work.
The story? Well, you must know the story by now, because if you haven't read the first three books you've no business reading this one - you'll be utterly lost, for starters. So suffice it to say that the multiplicity of plots that have budded and bloomed in previous books continue to expand into full flower... Che is brave and loveable and Stenwold is doughty and anxious, and Tynisa is a fearless warrior-tart, we learn about the culture of the Commonweal in depth for the first time, there are great battles and clever tricks and sudden reversals and a pint-and-a-half of derring-do in every chapter. And Tisamon, as ever, is a giant prat. Though I wouldn't say it to his face.
One thing I particularly admire in Tchaikovsky's writing is his depiction of extended battle scenes. Too often in novels of this kind people start fighting and I zone out, uninterested in Whatsisname's sword-thrust and So-and-so's parry and feint. Tchaikovsky holds the interest by bringing a rare eloquence and narrative brio to his battle scenes, and a sense of authenticity doubtless garnered from his side-interest in live-action roleplaying (Read his website!). This brings a welcome sense of value for money, as I'm actually reading all of it...
Downsides are few - I've pointed out before that there's little descriptive colour to these novels, and that's a problem which remains - if you even consider that a problem. Also, with so many plots and dozens of viewpoint characters, it's inevitable that some of them get comparatively short shrift - in particular Taki, the chirpy fly-kinden aeronaut, my favourite new character from Dragonfly Falling, who for most of the novel is consigned to a bit of a narrative cul-de-sac (Although that could just be my own prejudice, because I fancy her).
I'd also like to learn more about the mythological areas of the story, about the Moth-kinden and their magic and the dreaded Days of Lore. But all that? That's not much. That barely dents the carapace, because this book is magnificent.
Although it marks a climax to what we've been reading so far, there are plenty of seeds laid in the plot of Salute that will grow in later volumes - And I for one can't wait. Stay tuned for Shadows of the Apt, season 2!
Volume 5, The Wind in the Wing-Casings*, is out in August, I believe. (Is it just me or does he seem to be writing these at a rate of three a year?)
*I jest, of course. Its called The Scarab Path.