Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt #1)My rating: Fantasy
by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I love well-developed fantasy worlds with political intrigue and subterfuge, and Empire in Black and Gold has these qualities in spades. There historical and current relationships between the different races (each with its own insect-inspired talents) are fraught, and the menacing new force of the Wasp Empire is underestimated by leaders who are more focused on ancient enmities.
The main characters are a resistance group gathered around a scholar and accidental spymaster called Stenwold, who has seen the Wasp threat and would open the eyes of his countrymen. His small team includes two young women who he's raised as his daughters, and a few other friends and allies of varying races and talents. It's hard to go into detail about the relationships within this group without straying into spoilers, but suffice it to say that for a small group, there's plenty of drama, but nothing that didn't feel believable to me.
The races of insect-kinden themselves are a unique and appealing twist. Each race has its own characteristics, talents, and weaknesses - but despite this strong "typing," each character is given a personality which goes beyond the stereotypical characteristics of his or her race. Even Captain Thalric, a Wasp whose main role is to lead the enemy forces, is given a sympathetic side and some understandable motivation for his brutality.
I loved this book, and really didn't want it to end. Thankfully there are several more in the series, and if Amazon/Goodreads star ratings are anything to go by, then it only gets better from here.
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