The war between the Wasp Empire and the Collegium has ended in a stalemate with victims on both sides of the battle. No one is sure what the next steps are but the one certainty is that this stalemate will not last forever. The Empire is regaining control over several imperial cities with sights set on the ancient beetle city of Khanaphes in the desert of Nem. The Collegium must send an envoy there as well to uncover its secrets but their is much more mystery to Khanaphes than anyone could have ever expected. This will be a spoiler free review but I will be touching upon certain events in the previous installments. Please note that I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ben Allen and the work he has put into these characters are spectacular.
I have mentioned this before in my previous reviews but Shadows of the Apt is essentially spilt into two arcs. Books 1-4 are the first and 5-10 are the second and you couldn’t have started this second part to a series any better. Cheerwell maker starts off this story as a broken person given the death of her lover Achaeos following the part be played in the downfall of the emperor with his magic. Cheerwell is haunted by the ghost of Achaeos as she sleeps and it breaks her heart every time. Stenwold agrees to send Cheerwell on this mission to Khanaphes, but she is also drawn to the city by a greater power that may have something to do with her inapt abilities. The Emperor has been slain by the Mantis Kinden Tisamon who sacrificed himself in the killing of the ruler and his devious Mosquito Kinden Uctebri. Uctebri’s plan to sacrifice the emperor and to give powers to the Emperor’s sister Seda has failed, but Seda finds herself a different person after the ritual with the desire for vengeance and blood. Seda now sits on the throne of the Wasp empire with her sites set on Khanaphes and she knows just the right person to send. The one person whom and knows the Collegium so well, Thalric.
I won’t go into too many details regarding the plot, but the worldbuilding and lore that Tchachovsky unravels in the Scarab Path is wonderful. Khanaphes is essentially Tchaikovsky’s version of an Egyptian city ruled by a group of Kinden known as the masters but no one has seen these rulers for centuries. The ruling power therefore comes down to the ministers of the masters who rule with an impunity and instill fear, religious and physical, to maintain order. We also get to see more into the skills and histories of many different Kinden especially the scorpions and I was hanging on every word. To put the icing on cake, we get to see Totho again and discover what part he has to play in this war. Totho’s character development is of a person who tries to do the right things but for the wrong reasons and poor Totho always seems to suffer for it. This is put on full display in this book and it will both excite and crush you emotionally. Adrian, could you give the kid a break!
Magic and technology as always is present and the battle tactics of war are shoved to the forefront. Adrian Tchaikovsky has put himself on a pillar for the most creative world I have ever read with fantastic characters to go along with it. Although known in the SFF communities, I am always shocked when I get messages from readers whom haven’t tried Shadow of the Apt yet, but when they do the praises come pouring in. If you need a new series to get absorbed in and getting emotionally gut punched from time to time, this is where you need to go. Its full steam ahead for me.