Does it seem a long time ago, that we were sitting with Sten and Tisamon and Marius in Myna, waiting for the Empire to come kick in the gates?
Back when Empire in Black and Gold was first released, as well as short stories and general fanfarage (1), I had some help from my good friend David Mumford in bringing the insect-kinden to life. So it seems fitting that, with Seal of the Worm (finally) on the shelves, we see a little more of his work. So here we are: David’s vision of most of the major players of Shadows of the Apt, gathered together for one impossible group photo. I hope you can see this properly on your browser. It’s a beautiful piece of work, made me quite tearful to see it.
There they are, then, our travelling companions of so many books: the heroes, the villains, the fools, the liars, the turncoats and the monsters (tick as many boxes each as you wish). I know for a fact that many of them have particular fans, and that people have very different favourite moments in the series. I have a few of my own, and I’d like to share them – headed up by the book title so if you’re still reading, you can avoid spoilers.
Che getting up Thalric’s nose in Myna. At this stage, the later history of these two was by no means written, but either I knew where they were going, or the way these scenes came out determined it, because you can see a great deal of their complex relationship there from even the first meeting.
The defence of the harbour: Collegium has been all talk up to now, but when the Tarkesh try to force the harbour you finally see the mettle of the Beetles and their allies – the simple heroism of men and women who are anything but soldiers first and foremost.
Blood of the Mantis
Nivit and Gaved: these two, they’re not lead characters, they’re not even particularly important, but for some reason I really love stinky, swampy Jerez as a place, and Nivit virtually personifies it. His surprisingly strong friendship with Gaved – two rogues together – is oddly touching.
The Gears crush the Mantids: later volumes (Sea Watch, War Master’s Gate) have a lot to say about the destiny of the Mantis-kinden, but up until now we’ve basically seen the kicking ass – especially against the Fourth Army back in Dragonfly. This is the first intimation that ancient warrior skills and killer instincts aren’t going to cut it from now on.
The Scarab Path
A lot of this book, frankly – the land-fish hunt, the frankly tragic truth that underlies Khanaphes and its people’s relationship to their uncaring Masters, but most of all, Che and Thalric again – one drunken evening between former enemies, both beset on all sides and realising they have more in common with each other than anyone else there.
The Sea Watch
I have described this book as “Prisoner of Zenda with Rupert of Hentzau played by a giant octopus.” So, really I should be saying Arkeuthys, everything Arkeuthys, from his repeated predatory run-ins with Stenwold to his sly, mocking conversations with Claeon. However, the moment that stays with me is the duel between Teornis and Sten, and how Stenwold wins, in the end, not in spite of Teornis’s superior skill, but because of it.
Heirs of the Blade
Tynisa, half-possessed, is absolutely fixated on Salme Alain – her first reaction is to think he’s lost, dead Dien, his brother, because he’s the spitting image… except he isn’t. It’s only when Che turns up, and we see Salme junior through her eyes, that we realise the likeness is all in poor Tynisa’s battered mind.
I’ll cheat and give you two: the taking of Myna – especially the street fighting where we see the Sentinels at play for the first time, and then that last sequence, with Banjax’s weapon about to blow, as seen through the eyes of the Imperial quartet of Aamon, Scain, Pingge and Kiin as their world comes apart at the seams.
War Master’s Gate
Although the fall of Collegium’s gate always gets me, it’s what happens after that – the scene where Eujen and Averic are facing crossed pikes, and the resolution of that… this is perhaps my absolute favourite moment of the whole series.
Seal of the Worm
And we’re back to Collegium Harbour, and that scene, when a number of former players abruptly re-enter the narrative, and most particularly you-know-who.
Key: 1. Rosander; 2. Arkeuthys; 3. Amnon; 4. Kymene; 5. Salma; 6. Drephos; 7. Che; 8. Totho; 9. Jodry; 10. Stenwold; 11. Talric; 12. Gjegevey; 13. Balkus; 14. Seda; 15. Tisamon; 16. Teornis; 17. Tynisa; 18. Achaeos; 19. Hokiak; 20. Maure; 21. Taki; 22. Straessa; 23. Eujen; 24. Laszlo; 25. Sperra; 26. Tynan
(1) defined as the sound Nigel Farage makes when he blows his own trumpet.