Review: Morningstar by David Gemmell



by David Gemmell

Fantasy | 321 Pages | Published by Orbit in 2014

| Rating |

David Gemmell is one of those authors that every fan of fantasy fiction should have read; unbelievably this was my first. Needless to say, I need more Gemmell in my life! Morningstar was a fantastic introduction into his writing; exciting, fast paced, and overflowing with ne’er-do-wells and reluctant heroes. If, like me, you need a starting point for the Gemmell catalogue, Morningstar will not disappoint.

The Angostin forces are storming the Highlands; murdering, pillaging and laying waste to everything that lies in their path. The people are deserting their towns and villages, fleeing into the bandit infested forests beyond; they have but one hope – the Morningstar.

Owen Odell is a storyteller, a worker of magic who spins his power into the tales he tells. A chance encounter in a darkened alley changes his life forever when he meets Jarek Mace – liar, thief and outlaw. With war threatening the Highlands, Odell finds himself attached to Mace and his merry band of misfits who turn their acts of banditry against the invading Angostin force – a mutually beneficial arrangement which both rallies the people and makes Mace a hell of a lot richer.

Rumour is rife, could Mace be the legendary Morningstar come to save the oppressed masses? Through skirmishes and battles, and facing darker forces than just an invading army, the ultimate question remains – will Mace run (presumably with all your gold and quite possibly with your wife) or will he stand and fight?

Morningstar weaves history, myth and legend into a fantasy narrative to create a rich and almost believable tale. The overriding conflict of the Angostins and the Highlanders is reminiscent of Edward I’s campaigns against Scotland and Wales, creating a vivid backdrop for a story which underlines the struggle between freedom and oppression. The clear influences from history give the story a sense of realism which may have otherwise been lost in a tale of magic and supernatural evil.

The comparisons to Robin Hood are similarly well deserved; outlaws and banditry abound, refuge is sought in the depths of the forests, and rich Angostins are relieved of their gold which, ever reluctantly, is bestowed upon the poor masses. This is a reweaving of the Robin Hood legend – a Robin Hood who despite all intentions to murder and pillage ends up, however unintentionally, helping others and fighting for the common good.

Gemmell’s writing is fast paced and fluid, describing the world and its inhabitants in vivid detail. The whole band of characters are given dimensionality; cutthroats, prostitutes and thieves alike. The first person perspective, in which the narrator is describing the life of another character, works incredibly well. Owen Odell plays the part of naïve narrator superbly; he is the moral compass of the tale caught up in a world completely alien to him, and this secondary perspective works to emphasise the complexity and duality of Jarek Mace’s character.

Mace is a wonderfully reluctant hero. His motives are always questionable, his true feelings hidden from us. There may have been more fights and battles if the narrative had been told from Mace’s perspective but we would have lost the most important and vital part of the story. The true beauty of this tale is that we never know what Mace is really thinking or what his intentions are, and despite any good or bad outcome we can never know if it was done for completely selfless or selfish reasons. Jarek Mace will always remain an enigma.

Morningstar is a short but gripping tale full of intriguing characters. The momentum is carried with excitement and humour and ultimately reaches a satisfying, if somewhat hurried, conclusion. My first foray into the work of Gemmell was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one which had me reaching for the next Gemmell book as soon as Morningstar closed.

Knights of Dark Renown, also by David Gemmell, will be reviewed shortly.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books in Escapology 101

Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!

It is still Tuesday, right? Oops! Later than anticipated, here is this week’s Top Ten Tuesday Wednesday.

|Top Ten… Books in Escapology 101 |

Welcome to Escapology 101. On this course you will meet those heroes who could find their way out of a locked box, in a locked room, in a guarded encampment with naught but a butter knife; they could storm castles and fortresses, perform daring feats of rescue, and whip up disguises with nothing more than a washing up bottle and some sticky-backed plastic. Through tunnels, torture and restraints these are the people in whose steps you will follow. It matters not that many are fictional creations, for the most fascinating characters are all real. Prepare to be immersed in tales of the most daring, risky and seemingly impossible escapes in both fact and fiction… that is, if I’ve read them of course.


| 1. |

 If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again

Colditz Story

The Colditz Story by P.R. Reid

This is the book which first hooked me into military escape memoirs. The Colditz Story follows the story of Captain Patrick Reid and his fellow prisoners of war at Oflag IV-C, better known as Colditz. A seemingly impregnable fortress, over 300 men escaped her walls in her four year history as a prison. This memoir is written as a tale of adventure, of daring escapades, crafty deceptions and ultimately a battle of wits with the Germans.


| 2. |

Never underestimate the ingenuity of others

Latter Days

The Latter Days at Colditz by P.R. Reid

The Latter Days at Colditz details the lives of those left behind after Patrick Reid’s escape in 1942 and is just as absorbing as The Colditz Story. Fuelled by the successful ‘home runs’ of escapees, the prisoners of war make attempt after attempt at freedom, pushing their ingenuity to the limits and incurring the wrath of the German guards. The determination and resourcefulness of these men never ceases to amaze.

heart| 3. |

Even the simplest object can change your fate

Tunnelling to Freedom by John Fancy

John Fancy is the man with the butter knife. Tunnelling to freedom details Fancy’s daring and dangerous attempts at escape whilst a prisoner of war. It is a tale of inventiveness, determination and bravery, which conveys the unimaginable difficulties of the time with a good dose of dry humour. Armed with little more than his 10-inch butter knife, Fancy dug eight tunnels, some of which were 40 feet below ground level, in his many attempts at freedom.


| 4. |

Your innate talents may be the key to your success


The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Azkaban, the most closely guarded prison in the whole wizarding world, a place deemed impossible to escape from. Until we meet Sirius Black. The Prisoner of Azkaban has escapes and escapades by the bucketful and earns a worthy place on this syllabus. Of course it would help if you were an Animagus… or a Wizard.

heart| 5. |

Don’t be afraid to change course when opportunity knocks


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

No matter how long and how hard you’ve toiled for freedom, if an opportunity for escape arises, take it. A true literary classic, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most well known escape stories in fiction. This is a tale of injustice, of inner strength and retribution. In this exciting, suspenseful and often violent epic, revenge is a dish best served cold.

heart| 6. |

Breaking in is often just as important as breaking out


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Stumbling from one danger into another is all part of the course of being an adventurer. The Hobbit is a tale of hidden strength, of bravery and cunning, and a reminder that enemies come in many forms. From trolls and spiders, to elves and dragons, in Middle Earth we are never far from an escape story.heart

| 7. |

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”


The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Keeping one step ahead of the enemy, escaping the clutches of evil, and trusting in your friends and allies; The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece of literature which no would be escapee should go without reading. Sometimes it’s necessary to trust in luck, and in the strength and goodness of those around you; sometimes that’s all it takes to find a way back home.


| 8. |

Be careful who you trust

Home Run

Home Run: Escape from Nazi Europe by John Nichol and Tony Rennell

Home Run is a collection of real life stories from the Second World War which showcases the bravery and determination of both the escapees and the civilians who went out of their way to help them. Whilst retaining some of the humour and excitement of escapee memoirs, Home Run also manages to convey the extreme sacrifice many were willing to make in order to secure the freedom of others. These are the people who set up lines of escape and safe houses; who took in complete strangers and risked their own lives and those of their family in order to stand up for freedom. This is a book about bravery, sacrifice, daring heroism and betrayal. Not everyone is going to make it home.


| 9. |

“You learn to escape the hard way”

the great escape

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill

This list would be incomplete without The Great EscapeThis tale, like many others, shows the bravery, determination and sheer bloody mindedness of the inmates of Stalag Luft III (John Fancy included) which led to the escape of 76 prisoners and which ultimately ended in tragedy for so many. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.


| 10. |

“The important thing was that we were alive…”


Papillon by Henri Charrière

Papillon is the thrilling and dramatic memoir of Henri Charrière, a Frenchman, who in 1931 was wrongly convicted of murder and sent to Devil’s Island, a penal colony in French Guiana. Charrière’s tale spans fourteen years and details his adventures, daring escapes and his (often dramatic) life during his imprisonment. This is a book which at times may seem unbelievable, but one thing is for sure -Charrière escaped… and survived.


With all that reading under your belt you should now be prepared for any adventure which may result in capture, imprisonment and the subsequent attempts at escape. And if all else fails, make like Joe Abercrombie and fall, jump or be pushed off any ledge, balcony, window or precipice…. and you might just live to tell the tale.


What about you? Do you enjoy escape memoirs and literature? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


A Darker Shade of Magic

by V.E. Schwab

Fantasy | 384 Pages | Published by Titan in 2015

| Rating |

Apparently there was a lot of hype surrounding A Darker Shade of Magic, a lot of hype that seemed to bypass me entirely. V.E. Schwab’s name was cropping up everywhere, everywhere but my bookcase that is. Fortunately for me, Dragons and Jetpacks had selected A Darker Shade of Magic as the August Fantasy Book of the Month and it soon found itself (along with Vicious – that sneaky basket stowaway) at the top of my to-read pile. Now I’m fully initiated into ‘the loop’ I can honestly say this book is magnificent. Schwab has created a richly immersive tale, woven with darkness and vibrant enchantment, which leaves me in great anticipation of a sequel.

Magic once flowed through the worlds, their doorways open to those who would cross them. Until the corruption set in. One by one the doors between worlds were closed. Each sealed off from the next, they evolved, changed and festered under the influence of monarchs, dynasties and usurpers.

Now only travelled by powerful magicians known as the Antari, one thing remains constant throughout. London. Grey London, a drab and magic free land ruled over by mad King George; Red London, a city of vibrant enchantment home to the Maresh Dynasty; the twisted and deadly White London, where magic is wielded like a knife; and Black London, a mysterious and ravaged city severed from the worlds like a rotting limb.

Kell is one of the Antari, a blood magician and traveller between worlds. An ambassador for the Red Court, he is charged with carrying messages between the respective powers of these lands. That is, until his habit of smuggling magical and benign artefacts between worlds lands him in a whole heap of trouble. As he escapes through Grey London, Delilah Bard, a notorious thief and prospective pirate, is swept along with Kell in the flight from cut-throats, brigands and a magic far darker and more powerful than anyone thought possible.

Schwab certainly has a way with words, her writing is incredibly evocative and weaves together four contrasting, imperfect and imaginative worlds. Each London is distinctive and instantly recognisable. Schwab captures the essence of each of these cities, her descriptive style assaulting the senses with colours, sounds and smells. Though they all share facets of the London, it is Grey London which resonates most with our own world. Danger forever hides in the shadows, in twisted alleyways and darkened streets. Even the most idealised London, full of colourful characters and vibrant magic, is not safe. This novel has carved new worlds out of our own history; at once exciting, dangerous and utterly absorbing.

A Darker Shade of Magic successfully bridges sub-genre gaps to present a narrative which appeals to a wide audience. For the most part, I like my tales dark and gritty; I like my weak, immoral, impulsive bastards. And if an antihero protagonist isn’t in the offing, then a dastardly villain will do just as well. Enter the Dane Twins. Every scene with them is a malicious dance, every encounter tortuous; Athos and Astrid are cats playing with mice. And then there’s Holland…

Schwab paints her characters in shades of grey, their personalities underlined by their London, the full spectrum of morality open to all. She creates a vivid picture of humanity’s imperfections and the two protagonists wear their imperfections (and many an item of clothing) incredibly well. Kell and Lila dominate the storyline; two conflicting, intertwining characters who remain infinitely relatable throughout, and who leave us with promise of magic, adventure and intrigue at the close of play.

Though, for me, Kell and Lila lose out to the secondary players in terms of unique personality traits, this novel succeeds in developing a diverse range of compelling characters, whose roles I can only hope will be extended in the ensuing novels.

Schwab is a gifted author whose words are as magical as the characters she creates. A Darker Shade of Magic is a short but brilliant read which will have you in another world at the turn of a page. And perhaps if you look out of the corner of your eye, or smell the scent of flowers on the air, you might just find a way from one London into the next.

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Bookish Beats: Röyksopp – The Inevitable End

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 

Royksopp3The Inevitable End


Listen to with:

A science fiction adventure

Such as:

Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy

Well it’s about time I put something other than a soundtrack on Bookish Beats. So here we have it, Röyksopp’s last LP – The Inevitable End. When a soundtrack doesn’t do it for me, downbeat electro is often a good choice. For science fiction it can be perfect. Rhythmic. Mellow. Something that doesn’t distract but adds to the book. It’s just one of those albums you can have on a loop and forget that you’ve listened to it ten or fifteen times in a row. Not bad.

The Inevitable End is a fantastically diverse album which varies between slow instrumentals, steady paced synth numbers, and electro pop vocals.  I have a love hate relationship with electro pop so whilst some of the tracks hit me in the sweet spot, some are just….well just too pop. Not my thing. Thankfully these are at a minimum and there are so many amazing tracks that I soon forget they’re even there.

The beauty of downbeat electro is that it can go equally well with action scenes, dramatic scenes, and slow scenes, so categorising this album into ‘top track for…’ was difficult. All the tracks work to varying degrees and the steady beat keeps the pace of reading at a happy medium. However my preferences, with the exception of Monument, generally lie with the more instrumental tracks. The fewer vocals the better.

If you’re not adverse to electro and like Kraftwerk influenced music (Skulls is a brilliant example and Save Me samples Kraftwerk’s Home Computer) then it might just be worth pressing play. Even if this is their last studio album, it won’t be the last Röyksopp album featured here.

Favourite track

01 – Skulls

Top track for action

02 – Monument (The Inevitable End Version)

Top track for tension

11 – Coup de Grace

Top track for emotion

16 – Oh No


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The Rapid Review: Crime Classic Firsts

Can’t be bothered reading a long review? Just want to know whether a book is worth the effort? The Rapid Review hopes to save you some time and tell you (in my humblest of opinions) whether to give it a go. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of rapidity!

| Crime Classic Firsts |

Welcome to The Rapid Review, this first feature will showcase three crime classic firsts. These are the books which introduced us to world famous literary detectives and sparked many an obsession into murders and mysteries, cosy-crimes and whodunnits, and which still garner  a following to this day.


| Sherlock Holmes |

A Study in Scarlet

by Arthur Conan Doyle

Read if: you want “to begin at the beginning”; if you like murder, mystery and arrogant sociopaths, and enjoy fast paced plots with Mormon interludes.

Expect: witty prose and eccentric brilliance, two connected but utterly different narratives, and a surfeit of ejaculations.



| Hercule Poirot |

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

by Agatha Christie

Read if: you fancy a locked-room murder mystery; you like egotistical little men with fabulous moustaches and have a soft spot for Hugh Fraser.

Expect: Hastings to become thoroughly confused and Poirot to amaze, astound, irritate but ultimately save the day.



| Cadfael |

A Morbid Taste for Bones

by Ellis Peters

Read if: you like 12th Century ex-crusading monks, have a fondness for robes, or just want a cathartic read.

Expect: a protagonist full of wit and sarcasm, a book full of beautiful prose, and a series more about the characters than the crimes.


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Review: Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy

Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse

by A. L. Kennedy

Science Fiction | 368 Pages | Published by Broadway Books in 2015

| Rating |

three star

I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review

I had never read a Doctor Who novel before, nor had I wanted to – not a great start I admit. Despite having something of a love for the subject, I couldn’t quite imagine the books being any good, and being thoroughly disappointed by something you love isn’t always the best way to pursue a relationship. However, my expectations firmly set at zero, I reasoned that it could not fail to exceed them. And thankfully I was right! The Drosten’s Curse balances wit and humour with Lovecraftian undertones in what turned out to be a rather enjoyable read.

It’s 1978 in Arbroath, Scotland, and something is amiss at the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel. Bryony Mailer is stuck in a job she doesn’t care for, with a boss she likes even less, and her biscuits are going missing. Oh… and the golf bunkers are eating the patrons. With the help of the Doctor (Time Lord – Charming – Devilishly Handsome) and Putta Pattershaun 5 (Alien – Bounty Hunter – Incredibly Clumsy), Bryony must contend with octopode obsessive OAPs and sinister Blytonesque children to find a way to quiet the ancient evil which has begun to stir in the backwaters of Arbroath. Their lives, human existence and a whole wardrobe of plus fours may be at stake.

Thrown directly into the action, The Drosten’s Curse reads like an episode straight from the screen. The story chops and changes between scenes and characters, building up the tension to create a rather cinematic experience I’ve infrequently encountered in books. Kennedy has a very fluid and humorous style of writing which, though light hearted, carried the momentum throughout the majority of the novel. The story did start to drag about three quarters of the way in but Kennedy’s witty repartee kept me turning the pages until the end.

Every character is written with a good dose of humour, which worked particularly well for those fleeting characters who only appear in the action. The fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) is excellently portrayed, his offbeat and zany personality captured almost perfectly.  However, the Doctor plays almost a side role to Bryony and Putta who, though likeable, needed a little something more. I didn’t really feel invested in them or whether they survived their encounters with the species that shall remain nameless, even if I did care about the general outcome of the story. Perhaps for entertainment value, these characters needed to remain somewhat blank, albeit humorous, canvases.

This book should appeal to old and new fans alike; the Doctor is, after all, magnificent. If you’re looking for an easy read, one which flows with wit and humour, and doesn’t take itself too seriously – much like an episode of Doctor Who – then The Drosten’s Curse might just be what you’re looking for. A.L. Kennedy’s writing shone throughout and certainly has me on the lookout for more of her work. Not for the first time, I was very happy for my expectations to be proven wrong.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Auto-buy Authors

Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!

| Top Ten… Auto-buy Authors |

This week’s Top Ten focuses on my favourite auto-buy authors – the ones you would buy no matter what they wrote. Much like last Tuesday’s Top Ten… Authors on my Bookshelf, this week will include a lot of fantasy heavyweights. I’ve limited this list to authors who are still with us and publishing novels (as you might expect), and I’ve also tried to slot in a few auto-buys with fewer books out there. So in no particular order:

| 1. |

Brandon Sanderson

What can I say? It’s Brandon Sanderson. End of. 

| 2. |

Joe Abercrombie

This man could write one word on a piece of toilet paper and I would buy it. His books always surpass my expectations and I fully expect them to continue to do so. More please!

heart| 3. |

Trudi Canavan

Trudi Canavans’s Black Magician Trilogy made me a fan for life. I would buy any book of hers based purely on that trilogy. However, the remainder of her steadily increasing repertoire hasn’t disappointed in the slightest. In fact, they’re just as good as the first.


| 4. |

Karen Maitland

Karen Maitland is the queen of the medieval thriller. She weaves folklore, magic and mystery throughout her narrative to create truly eerie and fantastical tales. Every book is stunningly unique and uniquely stunning. I cannot wait for The Raven’s Head.


| 5. |


Patrick Rothfuss

Ahh Patrick Rothfuss! You wonderful bearded man. Though the Kingkiller Chronicles only has two (and a half) books to date, they have automatically jumped into my favourite books of all time. If you’ve never read any Rothfuss, pick up a copy of The Name of the Wind. This man does not disappoint.


| 6. |


Adrian Tchaikovsky

Though I’ve not made my way through all his novels, I have to include Adrian Tchaikovsky on this list. His Shadows of the Apt series is absolutely fantastic and I have high hopes for Guns of the Dawn and Children of Time. I don’t doubt that I will buy every book he has written.


| 7. |


C.J. Sansom

Sansom is an incredibly eloquent author who always manages to weave a compelling narrative. His Matthew Shardlake books sweep you into the dirt, grime and mayhem of Tudor England, where murders, thefts, executions and betrayals abound in a past made stunningly real. This author can do no wrong.


| 8. |

Peter V. Brett

Brett’s tales of demons and magic; of invasions, battles and bloody vengeance are truly captivating. I’m currently reading The Daylight War, the third in the Demon Cycle, but  own all of his books. I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeves.


| 9. |


Scott Lynch

Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series is incredible. These books are non-stop swashbuckling tales of adventure… or misadventure. The Lies of Locke Lamora has (quite rightly) received a great deal of praise but I loved Red Seas Under Red Skies just as much. I fully expect to be dazzled by the next in line.heart

| 10. |


J.K. Rowling

And of course! J.K. Rowling. Just because.


What about you? Which authors are on your auto-buy list? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Bookish Beats: The Secret Garden OST

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 


The Secret Garden (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Composed by Zbigniew Preisner

Listen to with:

A haunting and atmospheric tale

Such as:

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of my favourite books as a child. Burnett could create a world of magic, a world from secret and simple wonders which I would dream I was a part of. The film was no exception; I would watch it over and over again, and become lost in the gardens and halls of Misselthwaite Manor.

This soundtrack suffuses haunting melodies with tension and magic, interspersing them with  joyous crescendos.  As soon as I started reading The Somnambulist, I knew which soundtrack to go to. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between Misselthwaite Manor and Dinwood Court, and this soundtrack accompanied Essie Fox’s writing like it was made for it. During the opening track, Main Title, you could envisage Phoebe Turner and the exotic and dazzling world of the music halls, and Leaving the Docks was a perfect complement to her conflicted journey to Dinwood Court.

This is a soundtrack with a good range of music; exotic tracks lead into magical and haunting piano pieces, which lead into light and airy choir numbers. The main theme, which I can’t help but love, runs through many tracks including Leaving the Docks, First Time Outside and Shows Dickon Garden. If you are looking for a soundtrack to accompany a haunting and atmospheric tale, or indeed a Victorian Gothic novel, then I wouldn’t look any further – The Secret Garden could just be perfect.

Favourite track

04 – First Time Outside

Top track for action

01 – Main Title

Top track for tension

03 – Mary Downstairs

Top track for emotion

02 – Leaving the Docks


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Review: The Scarab Path by Adrian Tchaikovsky


The Scarab Path

Book Five of the Shadows of the Apt

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Fantasy | 688 Pages | Published by Tor in 2010

| Rating |

I love Adrian Tchaikovsky. The Shadows of the Apt series has taken my breath away with each successive book. Tchaikovsky has created a universe which is truly unique; a universe in which insectoid human races vie for supremacy over one another in a rich and vibrant world. Every time I read another addition to the series, I can’t help but berate myself for leaving it on my bookshelf for so long before picking it up. The Scarab Path is no exception. After two long years of waiting I opened it up, read the first page and was once again drawn into a world of magic and artifice, of war and peace and a clash of cultures. I can’t believe I left it this long.

The Scarab Path continues the story of Cheerwell Maker of Collegium (self-effacing bumbling Beetle) and Thalric of Capitas (Wasp and erstwhile officer of the Rekef) following the events in Salute the Dark.

After an explosive conclusion to the war with the Wasp Empire, Cheerwell finds herself lost; lost in a city she once called home, lost in her grief, and suffering from another loss too great for any Beetle-kinden to comprehend. Determined to draw his niece from her reverie, Stenwold encourages Che to join a Collegium expedition of academics to the mysterious Beetle city of Khanaphes. An expedition which might just hold the answers to those questions which have been unsettling her mind, and an expedition where she might just find more than she was looking for.

Meanwhile, the Empress Seda is consolidating power in what remains of the Wasp Empire. Thalric, now Regent, finds himself at the mercy of this powerful and dangerous woman; a woman whose secrets are far darker and more deadly than anyone could imagine. Under the threat of assassination, Thalric must throw his loyalties to the wind (yet again) and escape from more than just the assassin’s blade. Finding himself in company with a deputation of wasps bound for Khanaphes, events conspire to bring both Che and Thalric together.

But the world has turned its eyes to Khanaphes. There are rustlings in the Scorpion held deserts of Nem and the wheels of the war machine are turning once again. Surviving an encounter with even a small contingent of the Wasp Empire is never simple, and with the Many of Nem at their backs (and fronts, and sides) things are about to get a whole lot more complicated. But the heart of Khanaphes holds a secret; an ancient and powerful secret hidden throughout the ages… and one which might just fight back.

The Scarab Path, like the books which precede it, creates a world so rich and varied that with every addition it becomes more real and tangible. By the time Tchaikovsky finishes this series, I may start believing it is real. His worldbuilding is outstanding; every culture is unique yet distinctly human in their isolated motivations – as though one facet of human emotion has been magnified tenfold and applied to a whole race of people. These people are the extremes; warriors, manipulative game players, artificers, cut throats and peacekeepers. The detail in which Tchaikovsky describes these distinctive cultures and the conflicts surrounding their lives is almost like he’s lifted an entire history from an alien world. Perhaps this is the true benefit of having a lengthy fantasy series, but few do it so well as Tchaikovsky.

And if his worldbuilding wasn’t brilliant enough, his characters are incredible. I love them, I hate them, I can easily go through the full range of emotions during an encounter with a Tchaikovsky book. They are so well written, so unique and infinitely relatable that each book can pick up a new set without diminishing the ones left out. Even small, sideline characters are given a touch of the Tchaikovsky magic and become real. Cheerwell is an incredibly endearing and lovable character, bumbling and stumbling into trouble at every opportunity; I’ve loved her from the very first encounter in Empire in Black and Gold. Thalric has also been one of my favourite characters since his Rekef days, a calculating liar and a manipulative antihero – and boy do I love a good antihero. The Scarab Path develops both these characters in a highly satisfactory way and firmly secured them as two of my favourites.

After the climactic events of Salute the Dark, I wasn’t sure how this story would develop, or even if it could develop without become a shadow of the other books. But who was I kidding, of course it could! I am not exaggerating when I say that every single book gets better, every one makes the world a little richer, a little more believable, and makes me love the characters even more. Tchaikovsky is a master of storytelling. The Scarab Path is a great addition to the series; I honestly can’t commend the entire Shadows of the Apt enough. I for one never want to see it end.

Gushing over.

Reviews for Book Six – The Sea Watch and Book Seven – Heirs of the Blade will be coming shortly

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