Stenwold Maker guided Collegium through the first war with the Wasp Empire, forming alliances with unlikely people and winning an uneasy truce. Now his diplomatic and political skills are tested to new extremes as he encounters an entirely unknown group of kinden, who reside beneath the sea. With few friends around him, Stenwold must survive a voyage into the deep of the ocean and once again save his people from a war they may not be able to win. In the face of this new enemy, even the once-frightening threats from the Spiderlands suddenly seem quite mundane.
The ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ series by Adrian Tchaikovsky is by no means a short series, with a planned ten books all of a fairly hefty size (429-697 pages per instalment so far). ‘The Sea Watch’ is book six and like book five, ‘The Scarab Path’, is almost a standalone novel. In my opinion, this was a good decision by Tchaikovsky because it keeps the stories fresh and doesn’t leave you dissatisfied at the end of a long book with no plot resolutions. For this story, the majority of the action moves from the well-explored land with its myriad insect-kinden to the entirely unexplored sea, which means new races, new politics and a whole host of new characters.
I’ve been fascinated with the characteristics of the different kinden since book one, ‘Empire In Black And Gold’, and moving under the sea has had me reaching for the encyclopaedia to identify the different creatures with which the people have affinities. There are many similarities with the land-kinden previously described, fitting in with mention of a split long ago that drove some from the land into the sea, but the setting makes everything seem new. I have a personal fascination with octopuses and squid, so I enjoyed seeing these feature, particularly the giant Arkeuthys who is a character in his own right. It also serves as a fictional history lesson, showing us how the development of the Apt races must have been for the land-based peoples, which is interesting if you’ve been following the different politics and history of the series.
The plot was engaging and, without ever seeming rushed, the events kept moving forward at quite a pace. This was done without sacrificing either depth of character – there are some excellent new faces featuring in this story – or the wonderful descriptions of the new places we’re taken to throughout the book. I think Tchaikovsky is just getting better and better at this. He has created such an immersive world and with each book, we’re shown something new, yet always something that fits in with all the pieces we’ve encountered in previous books. I really admire the depth that he’s managed to create in this fictional world.
I am sure that some people will be disappointed because ‘The Sea Watch’ doesn’t continue the story of Cheerwell and Thalric from ‘The Scarab Path’, instead returning to follow Stenwold again. However, I think it was a good move. The first four ‘Shadows Of The Apt’ books followed one continuous story arc and, by the end, were starting to drag a little. The almost standalone stories of books five and six, focusing on fewer characters and with self-contained story arcs have really reinvigorated the series and I certainly can’t wait to see where Tchaikovsky takes us in book seven.
Great plot, exotic locations, believable characters and the trademark Tchaikovsky battle scenes make ‘The Sea Watch’ an entertaining read and I’m sure fans of the series will enjoy this sixth foray into the world of the insect-kinden.
(pub: TOR-UK/PanMacmillan. 703 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-330-51146-9)
check out website: www.panmacmillan.com