The Air War
All is in turmoil as the world moves towards war. In Solarno, the spies watch each other and ready their knives, while Myna sees the troops muster at its border and emotions run high as it vows never to be enslaved again. In Collegium, the students argue politics, too late to turn the tide. In the heart of the Empire, new pilots have completed their secretive training, generals are being recalled to service and armies are ready to march. Their Empress, the heir to two worlds, intends to claim her birthright. And nothing – either within the Empire or beyond it – will stand in her way. A conflict is coming, the like of which the insect-kinden have never seen.
Having finally been able to catch up with this series with Heirs of the Blade last month I was thrilled to continue the story once again in The Air War. So far the Shadows of the Apt series hasn’t let me down once and Adrian Tchaikovsky just keeps on amazing me with his rich and interesting world and the characters that inhabit it. Heirs of the Blade showed several piece of the storyline that will play an important in the finale of the series and I thought that they would be more explored in The Air War, but this isn’t really the case. The Air War focuses on revisiting several events and happening that went on earlier in the series, but this time explores them in the fullest detail and though The Air War isn’t a direct follow up of book #7, it didn’t let me down again. Because by this revisiting of the several earlier events, you get a much better grip on the threat that the Empire imposes but also gives a better grip on the technology and everything that makes the world goes round. This one of the strongest points of the series. Adrian Tchaikovsky keeps on taking the series further with new material but keeps to the true nature of the story with using earlier explored things. This is what makes epic fantasy. Top material.
With already the eight book in the series I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum and give a general description!
The Air War starts off with a completely different cast than what we were used in the last book. Most of the characters that have been focused on aren’t making a big appearance. Che, Thalric and Tynisa won’t make an appearance and Seda character only takes up a small part of the book. First off, the book is divided into two parts. The first is called “The Calm” now I could immediately guess where this might be aimed for... because there is also the calm before the... yes that’s right Storm. And the second part is called that. The Air War’s titles is self explanatory and this where the focus lies within the book, where the warring threats first occurred on ground, they are now translated to the skies. The aspect of air warfare was explored in a few books back already but now come to full color in The Air War, lying a heavy emphasis on a the steampunk and technology of the book.
The first part of the book focuses a lot on setting the storyline up for the second part of the book. Introducing the new characters and on the first go letting it seem that everything is just normal in Collegium, showing a new quartet of students taking several tests but on the other hand taking place in a different place you have the slow rise of the Empire. This way of exposing the storyline was done in a great way. Several of the storylines that you follow include Taki, who starts of the story and finds out that the Empire is amassing a new way of aerial warfare with new technology. Laszlo, who act as an agent for Stenwold maker in the city of Solarno, an Assassin Bug kinden who has the power to shape shift and is tasked with assassinating Seda, Seda herself, and that of Stenwold Maker. It was a solid decisions to reintroduce several past characters, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s characterization is strong and when I just read the names of several character, immediately several images and their backgrounds directly leapt to mind. From these different storyline most of them all converge into one in the end, as you have the defenders of Collegium trying to fend off the war with the Empire and the point of view of the Empire trying to invade and achieve what couldn’t e done earlier. I really liked how Adrian Tchaikovsky showed both sides of the story as this gives you a great feeling for several characters and even though Stenwold and his crew are the good guys in the series and the Empire the bad guys, it didn’t automatically wanted me to root for Stenwold. Adrian Tahckovsky does a great job in highlighting both sides.
Like I mentioned above Seda doesn’t take a strong role in this book but there is the occasional scene. And what does come to show in her is that it takes place after Heirs of the Blade. So I am hoping to see a bit of a catch up for Che’s and Thalric’s story in the book to follow. But that said. Seda’s part is cool, well cooler than cool. Because we all know what the last book in the series is called right? Seal of the Worm. Yes. Now that Seda is struggling with being Inapt, having a heavy weight on her shoulders to lead the Wasps to victory, she is contemplating using deadly magics. And this part really bring the worst in her to front but possibly the best of the series. Adrian Tchiakovsky starts to drop hints about what the Seal of the Worm is. And this is really something that got my hopes up when I read the first word. Especially given the fact that one of Seda’s advisers, Gjegvey, is telling her not to and why. But Seda is determined to see her plan for total domination, with no matter what costs. But what makes her character really strong is that Adrian Tchaikovsky shows her on one moment in a very fragile way and on the other moment determined, viscous and harsh. With the first hint of the danger of the Seal of the Worm shown in The Air War starts to give a promise a grande ending.
The overall storyline was solidly constructed from start finish, and even though you are already in the eight book of the series, Adrian Tchaikosvky doesn’t falter at all with what he has already shown in his narration in the first seven books. The story doest fall in a drag and he keeps on introducing twists and turns to really get you fired up about the proposed events will unfold. He keeps you on the edge of your seat and sharp about everything, from down to the battles to the relation amongst several characters. The way that the aerial combat is being described is just done in an amazingly rich way, like you were just co-piloting a plane together with Taki and the other aces. Good stuff. The ending of the story, with Collegium having fended of the Empire once again, does leave a direct entry for War Master’s Gate, and with this Adrian Tchaikosvky does show that the Empire isn’t bested with one loss. They are determined to win, to conquer and to destroy. The Empire is shown in this everpresent, everdetermined dangerous and nefarious way. They will never give up, they will never step down and there is only one solution...
The Air War continues the ever solid tradition of The Shadows of the Apt series. By revisiting earlier proposed idea’s and letting them come to full show in The Air War Adrian Tchaikosvky really shows that he is on top of his game with writing Epic Fantasy and knows how to build a series and an interesting and engaging world. The story starts off with a slow exposition of the direction of the story, but when the Storm hits, shows chaos, battles, and much much more. It’s like I said with Heirs of the Blade this is a series to read. And this might turn into a fan boy review, well frankly I don’t care. It’s extraordinary.