Alytha's Reviews > The Scarab Path

The Scarab Path by Adrian Tchaikovsky
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Jan 08, 12

** spoiler alert ** Read the fifth volume of Shadows of the Apt, The Scarab Path, by Adrian Tchaikovski while on holiday.

Contains spoilers for all books of the series up to this one.

The Scarab Path takes place about a year after the events of the previous book; the defeat of the Wasp army, and the death of Achaeos. Che is still extremely distraught, and can't let go, especially as she keeps feeling the ghostly presence of her unhappy dead lover. She also lost her Aptitude at the end of the ritual that killed Achaeos, and now feels doubly lost in a city full of machinery she used to understand.

Meanwhile, the Scholars of Collegium have discovered an ancient Beetle city named Kanaphes on old maps. Stenwold decides to send an embassy headed by Che there, both to get her distracted from ger sorrow, and to possibly help her, as reports indicate that these Beetles may be Inapt, as there is no artifice in their city.

The first person Che comes across in Kanaphes is Thalric, formerly Wasp agent, formerly Collegium agent, now the consort of the Wasp Empress. As the Empress is completely insane and has some very disturbing habits, he has fled there.

At the same time, a half Wasp, half Scorpion agent is sent to the Scorpions of the New desert, in order to recruit them to destroy Kanaphes. Which turns out to be the biggest cover-up ever, as somebody really really wants Thalric dead, and will go into any kind of extremes to get there.

As if that wasn't enough, Totho, now the head of a rich arms merchand consortium, also shows up, still utterly obsessed by Che.

As the local population isn't very open-minded, Che and Thalric become rather close, which doesn't make Totho any happier, and leads to some disturbing stalking. Also, there's something really strange going on about the mysterious Masters of Kanaphes, extremely powerful people who went underground centuries ago, and left instructions to keep their subjects from exploiting their Aptitude, keeping them in an artificial stone age, so that the Scorpions, armed by the Empire, make short work of their fortifications.

Che and Thalric finally get to meet the Masters, and there are some interesting revelations...

I quite liked this one.
There is finally some exploration of the Inapt kinden, in a way that they are not depicted as quasi-retarded, defeated by a simple door-lock. While Che feels like she is disabled at the beginning, she finds alternative talents in Kanaphes, as she feels some kind of connection to the Inapt Masters, and finds that she can read writing and maps that don't make any sense to the local Apt Beetles. So the Apt kinden get technology, but can't wrap their head around anything metaphysical, the Inapt kinden get powerful magic, which more than makes up for the lack of technology (especially if you get to keep some Apt kinden in slavery so they can take care of that stuff for you). Which explaines how the Inapt were able to dominate the other kinden for millenia, and balances the power between Apt and Inapt somehow.

The character development was quite interesting here. Thalric definetely seems to be related to Jaime Lannister, a not actualy evil man, who has done evil things, and is now seeking redemption. I think Che and him make quite a nice couple, actually. Totho, on the other hand, is acting like Anakin Skywalker, ca the middle of Episode 3. His obsession with Che is rather disturbing, as she has become the yardstick against which he measures all his actions. Understandably, she isn't too happy about this, as he's pretty much stalking her, going: look at what I've done, do you love me now?. The fact that he coldbloodedly killed a whole garrison in Szar doesn't help there. He's a bit of an annoying character, really, and I hope we won't see much more of him in the coming volumes.
One could argue that Che is a bit of a special snowflake character, as all the special stuff only seems to happen to her. However, as we're in her point of view a lot of the time, and get a lot of her internal monologue and her motivations, we get to understand her, and sympathise with her, so that you end up quite liking her.

Both plot lines, the one about the Scorpion invasion, and the one about the Masters are interestingly done, although personnally, I found the latter more fascinating, as I'm into worlbuilding mythology stuff. We also almost found out why the Spiders and the Mantis hate each other so much...that would have been interesting.

A good transition from the Wasp war to other matters.

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