Rating: 4 out of 5
While this started out slow, I ended up enjoying this volume in the Shadows of the Apt saga far more than I would have thought. Not only is the adventure focussed on some of the characters I am most fond of, but also the Commonweal is an interesting world to be taken to: old and new and timeless. It’s easy to see where Mr Tchaikovsky had some of the inspiration for the Commonweal, but it’s more difficult to have actually put it together in this way.
The main characters in this book are the half-sisters, Tynisa and Cheerwell. Both of them are written well, with the Cheerwell’s focus on trying to understand her new-found powers while Tynisa struggles with the ghost of his father. Much of the author’s style relies on foreboding, but knowing the likely outcome doesn’t detract from the events themselves—or, rather, knowing the tone of the outcome makes one want to know the events that led there even more.
The Commonweal, as noted above, is a weird mix. The philosophy of the (good) elite is Confucian, the architecture Japanese, and the lawlessness and magnates’ strength reminds me of that real Commonwealth where the monarch was also the sum of their supporters and no more. This makes the Commonweal markedly different from other places in-universe, allowing the slow pace of actions to gently easy the reader in.
Dal Arche, one of the few Dragonfly-kinden who are also introduced as a point-of-view character is also an interesting addition. While his ending doesn’t come as a surprise if one is reading carefully, the history woven into him—of a war where even victories are defeats—allows him to speak with an oddly 20th century philosophy in a very different country. That he’s not the only Dragonfly to think that way re-emphasises the strong philosophy that’s at root of their government, and of which Salma was a good example earlier on.
A good and worthy addition into the series!