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Blood of the Mantis
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Release Date: 7th Aug 2009
Publisher: Pan Macmillian
ISBN: 978 02307 0416 9
RRP: £7.99

Average Customer Rating: 
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Book Three of the Shadow of the Apt series...

The intermittent time lapses between titles releases in this series mean that it can take a while for your brain to re-engage with the unique world that Tchaikovsky has created. Like a reptile warming up in the sun before it can come back to some semblance of life; many pages pass before you feel properly reacquainted with Stenwold Maker and his cohorts. Once satisfactorily heated up, sheer enthusiasm and thirst for answers pull you along – however, Blood of the Mantis is not its predecessors and may eventually disappoint its readers.

In all fairness, Blood of the Mantis does what it says on the tin (or book cover): Achaeos is indeed seeking out the elusive and magical Shadow Box, along with an unlikely motley crew consisting of renegade wasp, Major Thalric, Tisamon, Tynisia and Gaved. Sten is absolutely mustering support and attempting to forge alliances that will help repel the Empire. For all the previous action, battle scenes and urgency; now, we find ourselves in that lull – the eye of the storm – whereupon nothing really happens.

In the end, we are no more knowledgeable about what the Shadow Box is. We are no closer to understanding Uctebri’s obsession and desire for it – or any clearer about his intentions towards Princess Seda. The alliance may be frailly born, but what little blood was shed seems rather innocuous and irrelevant. Even the burgeoning resistance in Szar (the Bee-kinden capital) feels benign and unassuming. What we do know is that the next book in the series simply has to offer more movement and enlightenment than Blood of the Mantis – our wits and our patience can last only so long before snapping.

Tchaikovsky is a truly amazing author, with a single-minded vision of his new universe full of insect-human-kind and an ability to recreate that world with breathtaking detail on the page. No doubt Blood of the Mantis has its place is helping set the scene for the future titles, but one cannot deny that were there a film to be made: 90% of Blood of the Mantis would be instantly culled as irrelevant to the substantive plot. This book flies on the basis of the overall strength of the series rather than being a standalone brilliant novel.

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