Review of Seal of the Worm by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Fiction Reviews

Seal of the Worm

(2014) Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor, 14.99 / Can$21.99, trdpbk, 619pp, ISBN 978-0-230-77001-0


Crikey, another meaty tome in the 'Shadows of the Apt' sequence from Mr. Tchaikovsky coming in at over 600 pages; although as usual it is not all story as we have some maps and a cast list of the principal players and after the fun there is the usual glossary of characters, places and organisations and 'things'. However, unlike previous books there is no totally inadequate summary of what went before to start with, but hey, this is book ten after all, and it's hard to summarise what's happened in a couple of paragraphs what happened in nine other books, and it is also the last book of 'The Shadows of the Apt', so if you have come this far, surely you must know how we got here by now and be drooling in anticipation of seeing how Tchaikovsky is going to handle the numerous cliff-hangers he set up in the previous doorstopper, War Master's Gate involving characters like Che, Thalric and Stenhold Maker.

It is the end of the war and possibly the end of everything. The Empire stands victorious over its enemies at last. With her chief rival cast into the abyss, Empress Seda now faces the truth of what she has cost the world in order to win the war. The Seal has been shattered, and the Worm stirs towards the light for the first time in a thousand years. Already it is striking at the surface, voraciously consuming everything its questing tendrils touch. Faced with this threat, Seda knows that only the most extreme of solutions can lock the Worm back in the dark once again. But if she will go to such appalling lengths to save the world from the Worm, then who will save the world from her?

Here come The Worms and they are not nice, not nice at all. War Master's Gate contained enough dire warnings about how bad they could be, and they are certainly living up to their bad reputation, which begs the question: just how bad do you have to be to defeat them? And the other one is: just how bad will you let things get? Here comes the mother of all battles, and as readers of this series know Tchaikovsky certainly can write a good battle scene as magic and technology vie for supremacy.

Maybe, I am being biased, because of my love of this series and I did not want it to end, but surely there was more that Tchaikovsky could have written in this world? Could this series have gone on for an eleventh or twelfth book? Certainly all the sub-plots and cliff-hangers seem to rush to a conclusion with maybe some of them not given the room they needed to do them full justice, and there might have been other lands to explore, other characters to live with a little bit longer, or even actually be allowed to live, but this is the end, and we will shed a tear at the passing of some major characters it's not 'and they lived happily ever after' territory for some folk, no matter how important a role they have played in the last couple of books that makeup this cycle within the ten or how many previous volumes they have managed to survive, but that's the difference between good writing and mere pulp fiction, ask Tolkien, ask Stephen King, victory always comes at a cost, a loss and tragedy is what elevates these books into a great series.

If you have never read any of this series before then you have the delight of starting at 'GO' with Empire in Black and White, I envy you, maybe I will do the same someday, and if you are a fan of the series, you have probably already read this book and loved or hated it, the latter probably because there will be no more, rather than grumbles you have about the plot and what happened to some of the characters.

And so after, what... I am guessing, maybe 4,000+ pages? Well, we release Tchaikovsky from his garret and let him frolic within the pages of his next, standalone fantasy novel which I have heard is a Napoleonic, steampunkish novel with touches of the Jane Austen about it and no sequels, before he is locked back in that garret and launches into a another major fantasy series, sadly, without a touch of the Apt about it, but count me in anyway, at least for the first nine books.

Ian Hunter

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