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Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt)

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Relying on a simple premise as this, gives you a large amount of advantages as an author, that you would otherwise have to be very careful about, and especially as a first time author get you into some problems or inconsistancies. But the one thing I’d say about Empire is that the cities are interesting, the world between isn’t.

To start with, that first chapter was great. I know some people don’t like being dropped right into the action from the start but for me a great prologue that leaves me asking questions and wanting to know more is one of the best ways to get me hooked. Like the prologue from the Eye of the World or the Way of Kings or the Shadow of What Was Lost, it made me immediately interested in what was happening. Plus there was some really cool and unique action.

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So, after gazing lovingly at the cover for a good long while, we opened up EMPIRE hoping the unique premise we had read about was delivered. It could have gone wrong. Horribly wrong, even. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a far cry from bad, or even mediocre.

Only the ageing Stenwold Maker – spymaster, artificer and statesman – foresees the threat, as the empires’ armies march ever closer. So it falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of the cities’ leaders. He sees that war will sweep through their lands, destroying everything in its path. Thalric is one of the most interesting characters in the book, though he is of a type: the member of the Empire who is starting to doubt his role as the dutiful servant and merciless soldier and spy. He claims to value the Empire above all else, but putting children to the sword doesn’t sit well with him, and he isn’t too certain about slavery, either. Although he’s a fairly standard character for an Empire-based fantasy, his depth of insight is compelling.Each Kinden has its own history and predigests towards the others. Beetles, Ants, and Flies were slaves, cowed by the powerful sorceries of their masters that they couldn’t even comprehend. The Lowlands were ruled by the Moth-Kinden, with the assistance of the Mantis-Kinden. This relationship is summed up in the commonly used phrase Masters of the Grey, Servants of the Green. This was until the revolution happened and the slaves rose up with the might force of the machines to overtake their masters and magic is now practiced in certain areas.

The Lowlands’ city states have lived in peace for decades, hailed as bastions of civilization. Yet that peace is about to end. A distant empire has been conquering neighbours with highly trained soldiers and sophisticated combat techniques. And the city states are its desirable new prize. We follow several characters on this journey and each one is better than the next. First we follow Cheerwell Maker: Stenwold’s niece and student at the collegium. Beetle-Kinden curious about the world and its inhabitants until the war is brought to her front door. Next we follow Tynisa: Stenwolds student and ward. Spider-Kinden who finds that she has no interest in the learning and knowledge of building machines but instead wishes to take up the way of the sword. Then we have Tisamon: Mantis-Kinden and a fierce warrior. Guilted by the betrayal of his once friend, he had lived in isolation for the past 17 years until Stenwold calls for help and the war with the wasps begin. Finally there is Achaeos: Moth-Kinden on a secret mission until it goes horrible wrong, He is a seer in training and his scenes involving his powers were the one of my favorite parts of the story.Same for the ant-kinden, a race of military-focused people with swarm-intelligence; the moth-kinden, which focus on magics and the occult (seer-like if you will), wasp-kinden; scorpion-kinden; beetle-kinden; mantis-kinden; dragonfly-kinden and so on and so forth.

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