Seal of the Worm, Shadows of the Apt #10, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt has been one of my favourite series for a while now, since taking a punt on the first instalment back in 2010. One thing I really like about Shadows is the speed at which the books have become available. The entire series of 10 books was released between 2008 and 2014 – that averages out at a pretty staggering 1100 pages per year and at no point does the writing suffer from this prolificness.
Seal of the Worm manages to pull off some really vivid imagery in what is largely a lightless world, with a good portion of the book being set deep inside the earth. While one band of our main characters is starting a revolution in the underworld, we have another group fighting to retake the city of Collegium from the hands of the Wasp Empire.
Those reading Seal of the Worm should be comfortably at home with the concept of the series, this being the tenth and final volume. Other than just for the sheer enjoyment factor though, it’s recommended to have finished the previous volumes first, especially as this instalment is a direct follow up to the events at the end of War Master’s Gate.
The Empress Seda has broken the Seal of the Worm and sent Cheerwell Maker and her companions deep into the world of the ancient kinden we began to see during the battles with Argastos in book 9. As the magic holding back the Worm fails, Che and Seda have very different views on how to save their world from the mindless hordes of Worm warriors that begin to break free to wreak havoc in the Lowlands and beyond.
The book is written with a real purpose, it’s fast paced and manages to tie up loose ends almost without you realising that’s what’s happening, so engrossing is the tale. There’s a good sense of closure in terms of certain character arcs, while the book doesn’t shut down all avenues of continuation, with other character arcs clearly leaving the option open for new adventures.
Continuing a theme noticed in previous novels in the series, Tchaikovsky manages to introduce new Kinden even in this last volume, as well as giving us new characters from Kinden we have only had a little interaction with before.
In total there are around 30 different species of insect-Kinden introduced throughout the ten book series, not including half-breeds of course. From around 10 in the first book, our knowledge of the different Kinden expands as we see different parts of the world, and there’s a real feeling that there’s a lot more potential for adventures in this world. Certainly there are some characters here I wouldn’t mind hearing more from, with the likes of Thalric and Che from the outset, and Straessa and Eujen from the latter books piquing my interest. Unfortunately some of my other favourites have passed along the way, but now the main series is finished there’s always the option of revisiting some earlier experiences featuring these as well.
Overall: Seal of the Worm is a thrilling and rather fitting end to a great series. Adrian Tchaikovsky has shown that he can write in both quality and quantity, so I’d be interested to see where he goes on to from here.
Dominish rating: 91%