Following up a series as accomplished as "Shadows of the Apt" with a book like "Guns of the Dawn" is a gutsy move, especially when you consider how universally loved the former was. It must have been temping to stay with the tried and tested formula that reliably produces results but Tchaikovsky is certainly not an author who plays it safe. Remember, this is a man who based his ten-book long fantasy series on insects-like creatures and somehow pulled it off in a grand style. So while initially "Guns of the Dawn" might raise a few eyebrows but you'll quickly realise that he perfectly well knows what he's doing here - this is all good stuff .
For most of its parts "Guns of the Dawn" doesn't feel like high fantasy at all but occupies that shady shelf of pseudo-histories where everything is familiar and yet somehow strange (to mention few of the newcomers, Aidan Harte's The Wave Trilogy and Den Patrick's Erebus Sequence come to mind). The story, loosely set in technological and social level of Napoleonic times, kicks off by Denlanders murdering Lascanne's king and invading them as if that wasn't enough. The two nations have been allies for as long as anyone can remember but those days are long gone and prolonged conflict is taking its toll on its people. Now the time has come for women to go to war and Emily Marshwic is called up to join the ranks. She has no illusions about where she's going. She already lost her brother and brother-in-low so the ruthless brutality doesn't come as a surprise. The only way to stay sane is to detach herself from reality. As its often the case she realises that nothing is strictly black and white in this conflict and even her own Lascanne has a lot to answer for. This forms a turning point in Emily's mind and I can only invite you to find out what happens next.
Despite not being "Shadows of the Apt" novel "Guns of the Dawn" comes with many recognizable qualities. The ability to tackle huge, brutal and unfair conflicts is still there in all its glory and be it insects or people, Tchaikovsky still knows how to write a tale about small people facing insurmountable obstacles. As a book "Guns of the Dawn" is absolutely massive - it's over 700 pages longs and weights a ton - and yet, I felt like a wanted it to be longer. That's the beauty of it all - knowing how to leave reader gasping for more. The thing is "Guns of the Dawn" comes without the burden of long winded series on its back and its conventions to follow so it is certainly a much easier and lighthearted read despite its length. To conclude, "Guns of the Dawn" finds Tchaikovsky at his invigorated best proving once more that he's anything but a one trick pony. He's obviously got plenty more stories to tell and be it "Shadows of the Apt" or something unrecognizable and new, I know I'll be waiting impatiently to read them.
Review copy provided by Tor UK
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