This is the second in the series of books of short stories in the shadows of the apt world from Newcon Press written by Adrian Tchaikovsky.
You don't need to have read Tales of the Apt book 1, Spoils of War, to appreciate this one, but it would probably help if you were familiar with the world as a whole.
These books of short stories, as I likely said when I reviewed book one, are a must have companion piece for anyone loving the novels or Tchaikovsky's writing as a whole. The little notes at the end of each tale gives you a real insight into the mind of the author, which is a rare treat, not often found in novels.
For those of you new to these books, go and read Empire in Black and Gold immediately, the setting is one in which all of the people have traits of insects which is called their "kinden". So there are Beetle-kinden, Spider-kinden, Grasshopper-kinden etc. The type of kinden affects their appearance as well as their skills and in many cases a sort of magical ability. So Wasps can often fly and sting with their hands, Beetles are often strong and can occasionally fly, etc.
These stories give the reader a chance to explore the insect kinden, through time and geography, and really understand the nuances of these interesting people.
But it's not a happy world in which they live. Tchaikovsky's novels are the epitome of the seemingly oft used title "Grimdark", his world are very much both grim and dark. Much of his stories are set against the backdrop of a war or conflict, in this book it is in the peace or perhaps the bloody aftermath of war. The real human cost of these times laid bare, but somehow despite the tragedy around them so many of the characters find hope, love and a reason to live. All too often used to demonstrate that they have something to lose and the titular grief that follows.
This book does not follow an individual character, but has a different perspective for each tale. Some of the characters are familiar from the novels, expanding our knowledge of one of the minor characters perhaps, or occasionally a well known face. Many of the perspective characters are new, bringing new insight into quieter corners of the world, sometimes literally.
These tales of peace in an imaginary world, perhaps more than those which depict war, somehow ring true in our own world. That even without current war, there are battles, against poverty, political and personal injustice, against pain and suffering. Perhaps these struggles too are worth our time. Perhaps those who have influence, to fight such as the Mantis Tiamon or for governance such as the Butterfly called Grief, perhaps it needs those people to stand with the less influential, such as Bello the young fly whose home could be taken away or Sperra and Sfayot who want recognition of voting rights in the place where they live. Issues of peace, for them and for us.
Tchaikovsky again demonstrates in his work why Fantasy writing has such a relevance and resonance in our world today.
Written on 22nd April 2017 by Karen Fishwick.
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