Review: Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt # 3)

Adrian Tchaikovsky: Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt # 3). (Tor Books 2009)

In this the third volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s fantasy series The Shadow of the Apt, we dive even deeper into several sub-stories of the overall storyline. Once again, Stenwold Maker sends his allies, his friends, family and students, out in the world to find out what the wasp Empire is up to.
We follow Cheerwell on a mission to the skater city of Solarno to try and tell them what’s going on, we follow Stenwold himself on a journey to the ant city of Sarn to try and create a unity against the wasps and we follow Archaeos along with Tisamon and Tynisa travel to Jerez, trying to find the Shadow Box containing the soul of The Darakyon, the former Mantis stronghold.
Alongside this, we also get a closer look at the Wasp Emperor’s attempt to avoid having to marry and have children and thus create rivals for himself by going along with his mosquito ‘slave’ Uctebri’s plan to give him eternal life – a plan, that involves both the Shadow Box as well as the Emperor’s sister, kept around partly so the Emperor always knew where the threat would come from but also for his amusement. But Uctebri is old, wise and sinister and has plans of his own. It is never certain if he is really a slave or not – even to himself – but it is certain that his powers extends far beyond his prison cell.
They extend so far as to create a revolution among the bees, the formerly so docile people suddenly rising against the wasps – thereby creating a for Uctebri most needed distraction for the Emperor.
But things are not what they seem in this book, we are not given many answers and things are definitely not always what they seem – and this book leaves us with the series’ first really cliff hanger.
Once agin, Tchaikovsky dives into subjects larger than just this fantasy story of unlikely heroes. He dives into the question of loyalty – even when you have been cast out, you might try to get back in because your loyalty is not gone – exemplified by Thalric’s storyline, former wasp officer and Major in the Rekef, now deemed useless because of inner Rekef power struggles. He is part of Stenwold’s group, all of a sudden, but will he be able to shake his lifelong loyalty to the Empire?
And what about war and power in itself? When is power right? “They put the brand of the Empire on yet another lesser people, and believed only that their ability to do so was all the right they needed.” (p. 357). Tchaikovsky has his black and white characters – where in former books, Thalric and Stenwold were the two opposites, Stenwold’s opposite now must be the Emperor himself – although so far away as to be fully unknowing about Stenwold’s existence. But Stenwold is the ringleader for the Lowlands, the center for the opposition against the wasps. But between these two poles, an area of grey exist where a lot of the rest of the characters in this series are. People switch alliance, they are not always what they seem, and even the good have bad sides. This makes the series seem very real and makes it interesting – alongside the insect kinden which is still fascinating enough to keep my interest – although I wouldn’t mind if we didn’t meet any new insect kinden in the next book but stuck to the ones we have already met. There’s plenty of action to come with the plots hinted at or started so far even if no new players are introduced and it would be nice to get some closures to some of these storylines.
Still, the book is really good once again and another solid 4 stars read.
Finally, I just want to applaud the artist who are creating the covers for these books. They are truly extra-ordinary and really captures the various insect kinden named in the titles as well as being just very aesthetically pleasing and engaging. They really draw you in and will definitely make many pick up these books when lying in book stores.

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