Monday, August 23, 2010

[Lisa’s Take] Shadows of the Apt Book 3: Blood of the Mantis (Adrian Tchaikovsky)

Series of books are always harder and harder for me to review the deeper I get into them, since there’s really no good way to do a good summary or recap without getting spoilery. Bear with me!

I’ll say this first: Blood of the Mantis was Good Enough. Good Enough to keep me reading the next book. Good Enough to be a pleasant diversion. Beyond that, I was fairly ho-hum about it. The story was interesting, but lacked a great ebb and flow. Tchaikovsky bounced around between characters and plot points so much that the whole book felt a bit frantic (though it did keep the pages turning). The characterizations were a little on the weak side, hanging VERY heavily on past character-building. I didn’t get a great feeling for the new characters introduced, but they also were Good Enough to stand, if not shine.

In lieu of a true story summarization, allow me to instead do a point by point recap of my thoughts on book 2 and discuss how they changed in book 3.

  • Easily the first 30% of the book was spent re-capping events from the previous book in excruciating detail.

This problem is totally resolved, thank goodness. Whether it was because I waited a little while to pick up book 3 (so the recaps were needed, rather than irksome) or whether he really did tone it down a notch, over-recapping was a non-issue in Blood of the Mantis.

  • 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 scope of book 3 was still more broad than the first book, but it did gravitate back towards more character and action centric than battle- and politics-oriented. I approved, with the caveat I mentioned above about character depth.

  • An additional problem I had with Dragonfly Falling was that it felt like Tchaikovsky kind of ran out of new ideas for the world.

This was definitely no longer the case in Blood of the Mantis. Tchaikovsky did an excellent job introducing new parts of the world and making the entire setting more rich. I highly enjoyed some of the framework he put in place for future books.

So… yay? Overall improvement? I don’t exactly have a glowing review to give to Blood of the Mantis, but as I said before: it was Good Enough. Amusingly, I think I can just copy-paste the final paragraph of my review of book 2, and it stands perfectly well for book 3:

  • > On the whole, all my complaining aside, I enjoyed Dragonfly Falling Blood of the Mantis enough that I want to pick up the third fourth installment and see where it goes. I’ll probably take a break of a few months before book 3 4 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.

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