Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky is my favourite adult fantasy series. It is comprised of ten marvelous books so I thought I would tell you ten reasons to read this brilliant series.
Reason One: THE CHARACTERS
These novels are full of a terrific cast of characters. Naive college students, seasoned soldiers, displaced citizens. The series is told through multiple perspectives; this is great because you get to see what is happening in different cities and what different characters are going through. You get to see both sides of every story. The switching point of view is a great asset to character development, you get to experience the internal monologues of each person as they traverse life’s struggles and see what they think of the people around them.
Reason Two: THE WORLD
Each book starts with a wonderfully detailed map. They give an excellent overview of the world and its layout. They do not, however, do the cities justice. The people of this world live in many different places with diverse cultures. Some live in university cities, some in mountaintop or forest retreats, and some in walled fortresses. I have a great love for some of the places in this series, particularly the mysterious city of Khanaphes. You’ll have to read the series to find out more about it.
Reason Three: THE SKIRMISHES
One great aspect of this series is the fighting. Many of the races have great fighting traditions, a lot of them focusing on single combat. This means that we are treated to a great many skirmish fights, all different and fast paced. As the series continues these fights become more skilled and even more thrilling to read.
Reason Four: THE BATTLES
As well as small scale fighting, this series revolves around several wars. This means we see a great many battlefields; sometimes the sides are reasonably equal but often one side greatly outnumbers or outmatches the other. This leads to epic battles that hide all sorts of misdeeds.
Reason Five: THE POLITICS
Some people fight with swords, others fight with words. One of the cities, Collegium, is a seat of great learning where democracy rules all (or tries to). We get to experience fierce political rivalries, underhandedness, and deceit. I love a bit of politics in my reading and this is just the ticket.
Reason Six: THE ESPIONAGE
Behind every great nation is a secret network of spies. Some are official and some so secretive you never see there faces. The spy aspect of these novels adds intrigue and mystery. I love reading the sections from the perspective of the operatives, even the way they think is shrouded in mystery.
Reason Seven: THE ART
The world in these novels is full of different races. Each race displays aspects of a particular insect. Most commonly there are enduring beetle kinden, solid ant kinden, fierce wasp kinden, cunning spider kinden, and mystical moth kinden. There is a kinden for most of the insects you can think of. Each kinden has its own Art, an ability that emulates a particular trait of the insect to which the kinden belongs. Wasps, for example, have sting shot – the ability to sting people from a distance – and the ability to fly. Not everyone can master all the Arts available to them and they do so to different levels of competency. Some focus on power, others on control, and some are just grateful that they can do it at all.
Reason Eight: THE INSECTS
Instead of horse and birds, these books have draft beetles and fluttering moths. Insects are numerous throughout the series and range from the minute to the massive. Dragonflies you can ride and beetles that pull enormous carts. This series has gone a long way to helping me overcome my insect phobias, particularly my fear of spiders.
Reason Nine: THE CLASS SYSTEM
Shadows of the Apt features a multitude of class systems. There are the rich and powerful merchants, spider kinden nobles, working class folk, and slaves. Different people have the power in different places and some cities do not allow slavery. It’s very interesting to see how people from different places react to class systems that they are unfamiliar with.
Reason Ten: APTITUDE
In this world, the majority of people are either Apt or Inapt. The Apt are capable with technology but are completely mystified by magic, in fact most don’t even believe in it. The Inapt understand and can often use magic but cannot comprehend technology. They can’t use a door handle and would get terribly sick travelling on a train. It is amazing to watch how the Inapt manage in cities that are mainly Apt and vice versa. Aptitude can greatly alter what you can do in life and add a really interesting aspect to these novels.
I hope this list has inspired you to pick up this series. I cannot recommend it enough. If you’ve already read it, let me know what your favourite part is in the comments!