Disappointment, thy name is Book 2. After how much I enjoyed Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling was kind of a sucker punch to my enthusiasm. I started the second book in the Shadows of the Apt series immediately after completing book 1, with no room to breathe in between. This was a very big mistake. Easily the first 30% of the book was spent re-capping events from the previous book in excruciating detail. Not just little reminders to trigger your memory, but full-on rehashing of conversations, characters, and events. Every time I picked up the book I was annoyed – which is not a state of mind to enjoy anything.
The events of Dragonfly Falling pick up immediately after the end of Empire in Black and Gold, and the story quickly broadens both the scope of the characters and the breadth of the conflict. The reader is introduced to several new characters and new powers come into play in the war as a whole. Personally, I did not find this change in scope appealing, as I’m more a fan of character-fantasy than epic/war fantasy. The characters that I liked from the first book got less attention, and the characters I didn’t like got more face time. In particular, I was disappointed with Salma’s character development (he started out as one of my favorites, but the whole “Grief-in-chains” thing ruined him for me) and I was very, very bored of Totho’s whiny love-lorn drama by half way through the book.
An additional problem I had with Dragonfly Falling was that it felt like Tchaikovsky kind of ran out of new ideas for the world. In book one he had a 100% new world to explore and he gleefully ran around talking about all the incredibly cool and creative stuff in that world… but then in book two realized he had already explored everything, and there was nothing new left to talk about. He did manage to introduce a few different ideas, but they were all related to the old ideas –nothing truly original came into play.
Thankfully, after a thoroughly mediocre first couple hundred pages, the last third of the book picked up quite a bit. Totho got less whiny, Tchaikovsky quit summarizing past events, and Thalric continued his trend from the first book of being quite interesting. The book ended on a good note, and I even managed a healthy enjoyment of the more epic aspects (battle after battle after battle).
On the whole, all my complaining aside, I enjoyed Dragonfly Falling enough that I want to pick up the third installment and see where it goes. I’ll probably take a break of a few months before book 3 so I don’t run into the over-summarizing issue again, and I do hope the series returns to the excellence of the first book.