Review: Salute the Dark
Adrian Tchaikovsky, we hate you…but in that way that results from loving you too much, and being jealous of your skills. Let’s start by saying how worried we were about Tchaikovsky’s fourth novel in the Shadows of the Apt series, SALUTE THE DARK. With three completely excellent novels released, isn’t it about time that Tchaikovsky had a misstep?
No. No it isn’t.
SALUTE THE DARK is the wrap-up of the four book arc that started with EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD. Here we have what is essentially the temporary conclusion of the wars with the Empire, and it is a very bloody conclusion. But really, at its core, SALUTE THE DARK is a novel about closure, sacrifice, and heroes who receive no glory, but dramatic loss instead.
It didn’t start pretty. It was slow out of the gates, and we were worried. Some of the PoV issues are still there. We had a huge cast of beloved characters, yet we felt that it was time for Tchaikovsky to get rid of a few. For a long time it looked like Tchaikovsky was going to just let all of his characters carry on into immortality. And then the end came. The body-count kept rising. It included characters we loved. We had asked for it, but when death(s) finally came, it shocked us. We have often stated how good Tchaikovsky writes characters. For whatever reason they are instantly likable, and we fear for them in every situation. Because of this strength, when characters die, the impact is felt so much more powerfully. It was a lot like reading the end of Erikson’s MEMORIES OF ICE. Yeah. Powerful, tragic and fitting.
This novel is about the Shadow Box, and how the Wasp Empire is at the utter brink of all-out domination. Uctebri, the Mosquito-kinden, has his own plans of vengeance an power. Pretty much every novel in this series has been about Stenwold Maker sending out his little band of agents and spies on secret missions. That isn’t the case here. In SALUTE THE DARK, each of these young agents have come into their own, and they each leave to see to tasks of their own making. Che goes to save Achaeos after his grievous wound at the hands of Tynisa. Tynisa herself is off to track down her father Tisamon who has exiled himself. Salma leads his mercenary force, and Totho continues to walk a moral line as he attempts to balance his love for his work and his horror at what his creations cause. Through all of this, Stenwold is left alone to manage another siege upon the Collegium.
It is all about character in this novel. Yes, there is war, and gladiator-styled personal battles. Yes we get to see the continued technological revolution of this incredible world. However this novel is really about some characters trying to gain some sort of closure and forgiveness. It is about the heroes who give up everything for the cause, and aren’t left with Ewoks celebrating over bonfires at their success. Once you read this novel, you will understand just how poignant the title of the novel really is.
This story arc is (temporarily) finished. But there are six more novels to come. It is everything we can do not to import book 5 from the UK where it was just released. We NEED to see how Tchaikovsky handles the political and emotional fallout of the climax of SALUTE THE DARK.
At the moment, this is one of our favorite Fantasy series. It has everything we could ask for in a story. We absolutely loved it.
Recommended Age: 15 and up.
Language: Hardly any.
Violence: Oh yes. All sorts, and it is described soooo well.
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