01/08/2012. Contributed by Vinca Russell
pub: TOR-UK/Macmillan. 673 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-230-70415-2).
check out websites: www.panmacmillan.com and www.shadowsoftheapt.com
The Wasp army has entered the lowlands and is attacking the Ant city of Tark. The Ants are confident of victory against the new enemies but Salma and Totho aren't so sure as the Wasps start unveiling their advanced machinery. Meanwhile, in Collegium, Stenwold Maker is trying for a final time to convince the city to prepare for war. With growing evidence that the Wasps aren't as friendly as they pretend to be, perhaps this time the vote will be cast on his side. Tynisa must come to terms with her Mantis heritage as she travels with her father to the ancient homelands of his people, while Che and Achaeos must make contact with the Moth-kinden secret service in the hope of enlisting further allies. All across the Lowlands, the Wasps are advancing and, even with all Stenwold's people trying to gather together the different kinden, the chance of victory seems slim. Yet, amongst the Wasps themselves, there are signs of discord and someone from Thalric's dark past is hunting him tirelessly. Perhaps there is still hope for the Lowlands...
'Dragonfly Falling' by Adrian Tchaikovsky is the second book in the epic 'Shadows Of The Apt' series, following on immediately from the events in book one, 'Empire In Black And Gold'. One of the great strengths of this series (so far) is the rich detail of the history and political situation. The reader knows that the Mantis-kinden hate the Spider-kinden and that Ant-kinden from different cities are bitter rivals. This creates a very believable tension in the current events depicted in the novel, particularly as we see Stenwold Maker and his allies desperately attempting to gather the disparate kinden together to present a united front against their common enemy.
This book also delves further into the cultures of some of the kinden that did not feature prominently in 'Empire In Black And Gold'. We learn a lot more about the ancient ways of the Mantis-kinden through the warrior rituals and spiritual beliefs to which Tynisa is exposed. The Spider-kinden are also developed, as we are introduced to the hierarchical nature of their society and the shrewd nature of their aristocratic families in their quests for power.
The fellowship of the first novel has split up and, in 'Dragonfly Falling', we follow a number of different story threads as we keep up with all of them. At times, this means there are a lot of different situations to keep track of and with the various battles going on at any one time this can make it a little confusing at the start of each chapter. However, it also means that more time is devoted to the development of individual characters and the reader wants to keep turning the pages to find out what happens to each of them.
Once again, the battle scenes are frequent and complex. Tchaikovsky creates very vivid battles and the level of detail devoted to these is extraordinary. In particular, great care is taken to explain the different types of machinery used and the different battle tactics of the different races. It feels almost like you are reading about a historical battle where the different armies are analysed and their strength and weaknesses fully discussed. The Ants fight tight battles aided by their telepathic communication but aren't good at facing novel threats. The Beetle-kinden rely on their advanced machinery and their naturally stubborn nature. The Wasps use sheer force of numbers and relentlessly advance, sacrificing as many as is necessary. These all combine to make the battles exciting and individual, despite the large numbers of them throughout the book.
'Dragonfly Falling' was an excellent continuation of the 'Shadows Of The Apt' series. It followed up many of the loose ends from book one and created many more strands that could be followed in the next instalment. I look forward to reading book three and seeing how the story develops over the remainder of this fantastic series.
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