Spoils of War, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is a volume of short stories set in the Tales of the Apt world and takes place (in the chronology of the world) before Empire in Black and Gold which is the first novel in that series. It tells stories of some of the minor characters from the main book series, but also introduces some new characters and tells you about them.
The Tales of the Apt world is one in which human are split into kinden types bases on insects and arachnids, which tends to set both physical attributes, ability based skills and what art (magic) they are likely to be able to access. So Beetle-kinden are generally hard working crafters who tend toward the tubbier side, Wasp-kinden are generally part of an empire working together towards world domination (think Romans with magic), Dragonflies are generally dreamers and artists who can fly, Moths are shadowy mystics, etc. Their personalities are often shaped either by embracing this identity or rebelling against it. This gives a world setting which is truly unique, adding a new factor into fantasy character interactions. The context and tone of the stories is a dark, war torn one, his characters are frequently put in most unpleasant situations, but somehow despite the setting, magic and kinden the character’s humanity, good and bad, definitely come through.
Each of the twelve short stories takes a view point from a single protagonist primarily and introduces you to their life, motivation and the engaging tale of what they have got themselves into.
The first story is the tale of Lial the Beetle who wants to invent the first heavier than air flying machine, then we meet Sergent Varmen, the leader of the Vanguard of the Sixth Army of the Wasp Empire who just wants to get his people home alive. Sfayot the Roach is looking for his daughter in a war torn area, then a nameless Lieutenant of the Wasp army is set an impossible task, although it is really the story of Carli the Thorn Bug. We meet Scyla the Spider, using her art to get what she wants and hear a ghost tale with Avarice, also a Spider. Then comes Cordwick, the Beetle, stuck in a Wasp jail. A story of Gaved, the mercenary Wasp, then Ineskae the Mantis warrior and then back to Gavred, this time in trouble with Wasp authorities. A tale of the would be rescuers of Hodiak the Scorpion trader comes next and finally Tisamon the Mantis which leads neatly into Empire in Black and Gold where he features more heavily than the other characters named here.
This book, and no doubt the others that are planned to follow, is entirely readable without any previous knowledge of the novels or world, but is required reading for anyone who enjoyed the novels.
Written on 31st August 2016 by Karen Fishwick.
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