Review: The Sea Watch

Posted: October 12, 2012 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Fantasy

Over the last couple of years, Adrian Tchaikovsky has become one of my favorite authors. Very few authors actually take their setting and story and move it forward technologically. In Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series, we get exactly that, along with huge amounts of character progression, thrilling large-scale battles, and intense small-scale fights.

THE SEA WATCH (Amazon) is the sixth book in this projected 10-book story. I guess the best way to describe it is by saying THE SEA WATCH, in a way, is the Shadows of the Apt series’ 20,000 leagues under the sea. The results overall are great, but that doesn’t mean the novel is absent some missteps.

THE SEA WATCH is Stenwold Maker’s book. By this point in the series he feels he has lost nearly everyone. For all the good he has done, the people of the Collegium look at him like he is a warmonger and a lodestone for misery. Then, when ships start going missing, Stenwold is the only one who listens and sees the threat.

The first thing to point out about THE SEA WATCH is how slow it is. This is easily the slowest novel in the series due in large part to the politics of the first 1/3 of the novel. Since the novel is almost entirely from Sten’s PoV this isn’t surprising, but it still is noticeable. There are lots of meetings and behind-closed-doors discussions. As a fan of the series, if you know this going in, it likely won’t bother you.

Another reason this book feels so slow is due to how much explanation is needed in the midpoint of the story. Without getting into too many specifics, this novel is about, unsurprisingly, sea-kinden. Throughout this series we’ve been introduced directly–or in passing–to so many kinds of kinden. But that was done over the course of five novels. Now, we are introduced to an equal number of sea kinden in ONE book. These new people, their cultures, the way they live, their own abilities, and the unique dangers in the water are all SO MUCH to digest all at once that the story bogs down.

I feel I should clarify that last bit. Yes it bogs the story down. However, it is still completely fascinating. Up at the beginning of this review I talked about how the evolution of the technology–that progression of setting and world–was so awesome in this series. THE SEA WATCH does something similar, but in the sense of giving the readers the piece of the puzzle we have been missing. What happened when the societies when from inapt to apt? What was that change like? We get this picture from Sten’s eyes as he sees the sea-kinden go through this evolution. Absolutely, positively fascinating.

There are some chunks in the middle of the novel that seem repetitive, and maybe could have been condensed to make the pacing a tad better, but overall I was pleased with this novel. The banter between Stenwold and the Spider Teornis was fantastic, and the subplots dealing with the Spider held so much weight. Just the story being told here, and the spy-novel undertones, make THE SEA WATCH a great read.

THE SEA WATCH is one of the better novels in the series, and it shows how much Tchaikovsky has grown as an author. Can't wait for more Shadows of the Apt.

And then that ending… man. Stenwold showing just why he is soooooo awesome. That final bit alone made the entire novel a must-read.

THE SEA WATCH is one of the better novels in the series, and it shows how much Tchaikovsky has grown as an author. As a huge fan of Tchaikovsky’s work, I was not let down in the least. In fact, I was blown away by how massive he has made this wonderful world. Not to mention I love Tchaikovsky’s characters and the way they have grown over time. I cannot wait to see were the series goes from here.

Simply put, The Shadows of the Apt is a series that every reader of Fantasy should be devouring.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Some, but not much
  • Violence: Oh yeah. Tchaikovsky does it right
  • Sex: Nope


  • Bob Milne says:

    I finally picked up a paperback copy of Empire this summer (there's just something about these 'epic' tales that I like to hold them in my hand). I really need to find time to get caught up . . .

  • You guys were the ones who got me hooked on Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series in the first place, and I haven't looked back. This is a great review for The Sea Watch as well. It pretty much sums up my impressions, which is always what makes a review great, right?

  • Mark Fenger says:

    The series is on my to-read list. I'm finding it hard to read all the books I really want to and complete my writing deadlines at the same time. Perhaps I should be like Stephen King and read a book every waking moment when I'm not doing something else (apparently one of his favourite places is in line at the Supermarket).

    If you'd ever consider reviewing a Serial, my work's available at

    I love getting reviews (probably in part because I haven't had a bad one yet (crosses fingers and taps on wood)).

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