Review: Empire in Black and Gold

empire in black and goldNovel: Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Published: March 1st 2012 by Tor
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Synopsis: 17 years ago Stenwold witnessed the Wasp Empire storming the city of Myna in a brutal war of conquest. Since then he has preached vainly against this threat in his home city of Collegium, but now the Empire is on the march, with its spies and its armies everywhere, and the Lowlands lie directly in its path.


When I did a two-week work experience at Pan Macmillan in London, they were kind enough to let me pick a few books off their shelves at the end of it (which I’m honestly so grateful for). This is one of the books I picked. I had never heard of the book or author before, but the synopsis sounded intriguing enough. Plus, I wanted to pick up more books I hadn’t seen in the blogosphere yet. Not a bad decision at all!


I can’t explain the plot without first talking about the world. So in this fantasy setting, the people are based on/kind of animals. You have the Wasp-kinden, Beetle-kinden, Spider-kinden, Dragonfly-kinden and so on. You get the gist. At first, this kind of grossed me out because I am definitely not a fan of insects and spiders. But I was actually intrigued by them.

Each race has their own looks, and attributes. For example, the Beetle-people are more heavy but very good at inventing, creating and mechanics. Spider-kinden are not that apt, but they are beautiful and incredible at politics, manipulation and persuasion. It’s really interesting to see each kind’s and person’s characteristics and talents. I do wish that the characters’ appearances were explained more. I can kind of imagine them, but it’s hard to really see the details… 

As the story progresses, we get to see more of the world as the main characters travel. I did love the different settings and cities! The Collegium was interesting because it’s the Hogwarts of Harry Potter, the University of The Name of the Wind and so on. It’s where you go to learn. Then there’s the second big city in the Lowlands: Helleron. A despicable city in which everyone just wants to make money no matter the costs. As I’m writing this, I wonder whether that’s a commentary on our society. Anyway, lots of different interesting places, but again I can’t really form a description of the lands. 


So, the plot. You don’t really get much from the synopsis, do you? It’s about Stenwold and his apprentices (I guess?) trying to prevent an invasion of the Wasp Empire. Adventures ensue! 

Truly, a lot happens in this book. While I had been in a reading slump for about 2 months, I couldn’t put this book down. For the first time in 2 months, I wanted to keep reading. That says something, doesn’t it? I thought the plot was really captivating, as I sat in the sofa reading for hours instead of studying or working. I won’t tell you anything about what actually happens because the synopsis doesn’t either.


This novel has quite a few main characters, so I’ll just have a little explanation of each!

Stenwold Maker: Beetle-kinden. He watched the city Myna fall and has been working his way up in the Collegium ever since then to spy on the Wasp Empire and work against them. Really enjoyed his character! 

Cheerwell “Che” Maker: Beetle-kinden and Stenwold’s niece. She’s been studying at the Collegium. She often feels like the lesser one: not as apt, not as able, not as pretty. But she’s tough, tries hard and never gives up. 

Tynisa: Stenwold’s protégé really. She’s Spider-kinden but has grown up at the Collegium with the Beetle-kinden. She’s a fighter -literally. She loves to fight. To be honest, she was my least favorite character because she was often arrogant. Incredibly so. 

Totho: half-breed. Also studies at the Collegium and is an artificer now – so he creates all kinds of cool things. Quite enjoyed his character, and I felt bad for him because of how he was treated due to him being a half-breed. 

Salma: Prince of the Dragonfly-kinden. I both loved and disliked him. He is incredibly handsome, and knows it -just like Tynisa knows she’s beautiful. But he treats his friends well and would do anything to help them -and his people. 

Tisamon: I believe he’s a Mantis. He’s one of my absolute favorite characters of this book! He’s a Weaponsmaster, which apparently is really rare. His kind holds on to grudges but also to promises. He’s probably the best fighter ever. He’s from the same generation as Stenwold, while the previous 4 are young. He was also at Myna when it fell to the Wasps. 

I also liked Achaeos, a Moth-kinden who is introduced much later on!


I quite liked this book overall! I thought the concept was intriguing, the synopsis captivating and the characters fascinating. The only downside I found here is that it lacks in description. I would’ve really liked to see the world and characters described more. I do want to continue on with the series because I enjoyed it, but I won’t go running out the door to the bookstore because I need it now. 

Review: Empire in Black and Gold

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