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Empire in Black and Gold

(Shadows of the Apt #1)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  8,345 ratings  ·  466 reviews
The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbors.

But meanwhile, in far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, it killing Art . . . And now its h

Paperback, 414 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Pyr (first published July 25th 2008)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  8,345 ratings  ·  466 reviews

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Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2020
Some authors do not write enough books while others write heaps. Tchaikovsky is one of the latter group. I feel as though I am never going to catch up with him, but starting the Shadows of the Apt series is a small step in the right direction.

I liked this book but did not love it, mostly because there was just too much war. The author actually writes war really well but it is not my favourite subject and I admit to skimming a bit. The characters were good and I had developed an attachment to, o
War, war, and rumours of war, and yeah, war is here and war is HERE!

I wish I liked epic fantasy novels of war more. I'd probably be a bit more enthusiastic.

The wasps are an implacable and vast, vast army, an empire made up of slaves, slaves, and yet more slaves. This is a foe that makes me feel a knee-jerk reaction. Hell, most of the arguments made up of those still living in the lands that haven't been taken over make it sound like the ramblings of ignorant peeps in the face of the Chinese. All
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 Stars

An Empire in Black and Gold was a really enjoyable start to a fantasy series, with distinct characters, cool action, and some unique world building. Set against a backdrop of a looming invasion no one wants to believe will actually happen, the book follows a reluctant spy and his young helpers as they try to find out what the menacing Wasp army is going to do and stop them before it’s too late.

To start with, that first chapter was great. I know some people don’t like being dropped right
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I'm finally diving into Tchaikovsky's epic fantasy series after liking so many of his books. If you've not yet tried Tchaikovsky, and you're a fan of science fiction try Children of Time and Dogs of War, and if you happen to be a fantasy fan, try the excellent Guns of the Dawn.

Shadows of the Apt consists of ten books. Quite a commitment, but it's done, so no waiting for the last few books. This is a world filled with human-insect races, and no, the Wasps are not very nice. The series has a steam
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-fantasy, 2019
This has been on my radar for a while but the low scores have put me off and i already have a couple of long series on the go. What swayed me was the superb Cage of Souls by the same author, which is one of the better books I've read this year.

It’s an interesting plot concept which brings to mind the film 300 (well, my mind. maybe nobody else’s). The Wasps play the part of the Xerxes led Persians as they sweep over the land conquering all before them aiming for their end goal of ‘One Nation’. St
Sherwood Smith
I hadn't even known about this epic fantasy series, until a friend outside the USA mentioned it. The good thing about that is: all ten books in the series are out (though one or two are not published here yet), which means not having to wait, if the succeeding volumes entranced me as much as this first one did.

It has a zillion reviews, most of which give a general outline of the plot, and hint at the world building: basically a world of human-insect races, called kinden. Within some of these are
Apr 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, library, d-n-f
Perhaps it was the phase of the moon or the change of the seasons or my attention to other matters, but whatever the reason, this book and I never hit it off. I thought the prologue was great: combat, intrigue, deaths, and a hopeless fight against a powerful enemy, but then the actual book began with two hundred pages of world building and four new main characters who I never cared one thing about. Perhaps if I kept reading I could finally get to the exciting parts, but since this is a library b ...more
Chris Berko
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started strong then the final third kinda dragged. Overall I found it very enjoyable and will continue the series.
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm sure every reader knows the feeling of starting a book you're skeptical about and being pleasantly surprised. Empire in Black and Gold was that and so much more. I had continually pushed it down on my TBR list because the whole insect idea just didn't click with me. Eventually I caved thinking that what if it ended up being a gem? Tchaikovsky writes pretty damn fast for a new-ish (I know '08 isn't that new but still) author whom not a ton of people know about.

The human race is divided into s

Excellent debut fantasy set in a quite unusual world of various human races that have some specific insect adaptation and are called insect-kinden, e.g. beetle-kinden squat, mechanically inclined, mantis-kinden fast deadly warriors, spider-kinden masters of intrigue in whose society women dominate, moth-kindeb mystical former rulers until the mechanically inclined kinden, beetle, ants and flies overthrew them and built an early industrial society of city states - Lowlands - loosely allied and h
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a very fine book with an original idea and well executed too. Solid world building, even pacing and impeccable characterization, plenty of action as well.
But I've been reading exceptionally great books in the recent past with Paul Kearney, Steven Erikson, and K.J Parker's books so it fell a prey to involuntary comparisons, although I did try very hard to not let that happen and enjoy this book on its own merits which are considerable.

One thing I missed was epic battles which I am rather
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the_call
This is a great opening book for what looks like a very promising series.

The worldbuilding in Tchaikovsky's Fantasy epic is refreshingly different from your usual medivial human kind of characters. Here the humans are separated in different kinden which all have special qualities connected with certain arthropod species that lent their names to the respective kinden. There are bugs and spiders, dragonflies and mantis etc. These peoples live more or less in peace (or ignorance), until the wasp ki
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just an absolutely fantastic first book in a series that deserves a fandom as dedicated as those of Malazan, Stormlight Archive, or Wheel of Time.

Tchaikovsky has somehow struck an amazing balance between the wildly unique world-building of Steven Erikson and the accessible/addictive writing of Brandon Sanderson. The outcome is a book that I -literally- could not put down.

If you are a fan of any of the writers I just mentioned, do yourself a favor and check this book out as soon as you can. I'm
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, 2009-reads
Empire in Black and Gold is the first volume of the fantasy series Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

My impressions:

There is a wise man, a threat, a "party", a travel, betrayal, fights. Hmmh, sounds familiar. But there are no elves, dwarfs, hobbits or trolls. Instead we find steampunk elements and most unsual: insect-kinden.
Insect-kinden? There are several human races who long ago adapted to prehistoric insects. Examples: mantis-kinden are warriors, beetle-kinden like mechanics, wasp-kind
Oh, darling how I wanted to love you, with your slick cover, interesting bug people and rave reviews, but you let me down. Maybe if I wasn't expecting so much, I would have loved you more.

Bug people, well sorta bug people. Sounds awesome, right? People who share the aspects of bugs is a pretty cool concept and one that I haven't seen done before on this scale. This was cool and done really well. I was actually expecting just a couple of different types of kinden (bug people, which are as far a
So, initially, I thought it was going to be The Lord of the Rings, but with Bug-People. We read that Gandalf sends four young hobbits from the Shire to Bree, where they are to meet Strider. Strider is scary. They are attacked by the roving agents of the Enemy. Some escape, and some don't. The captured ones are taken deep into Enemy territory. They are rescued, with the aid of new allies, and the rescue even involves tangentially a haunted forest. It's all set in the context of an invasion by an ...more
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2010
I really enjoyed this debut novel from Tchaikovsky. The unusual races of insect kinden give this novel a very unique and intriguing feel. The story is the typical bad guy's empire is taking over the world and many people/countries still do not believe it. The characters are interesting and the writing style is quite detailed. His action scenes are depicted in the vain of RA Salvatore where you often are told where each step, flip, and swing of the sword is. This novel reminded me of Star Wars a ...more
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More reviews at

Welcome to the Lowlands and what I can only describe as the most underrated epic fantasy series of out time! Yes, you heard me correctly and I do not use these words lightly. Adrian Tchaikovsky is known mostly through his sci-fi novels but he wrote a ten book epic fantasy series starting with Empire in Black and Gold in 2008. This ten book epic fantasy series is the hidden gem of the epic fantasy genre and I would like to thank Tor UK for rereleasing the
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The wasps are coming! This series is set in a world where people are 'kin' to various different bugs and have the traits of those bugs. For example: beetle kin are generally on the tubby side and amazing with machines, spider kin are devious and love their webs of intrigue. The wasp kin are militant and have their eye fixed on taking over the entire world town by town. Only a few people see the danger in this and try their best to raise a revolution and make a stand against them.

This is my third
Leon Aldrich
As other reviewers have mentioned, this series is premised on a completely original world building idea, in which the different races ("kinden") are based on different types of insect, with appropriate powers. I started the first book reluctantly because it sounded campy, but soon found I couldn't put it down. ...more
Solid.. but didn't blow me away.. full review in a few days. ...more
Paul Weimer
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's an audacious idea that you might laugh at if I describe it in print. Here goes.

On a parallel world, giant insects grew to enormous size, threatening mammals, reptiles, and primitive humans in the process. In order to adapt to this threat, tribes of humans form mystical alliances with these giant insects, taking on their traits and abilities even while remaining human.

Thus is Shadows of the Apt, the start of a new series by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

This world is moving slowly into an age of scien
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I want to shout on the rooftops "I love Shadows of the Apt!", but, alas... I cannot. The lack of description in this book makes it hard to get into. I understand that some books take longer than others to pull the reader in, but this book didn't give you much to work with, only vague descriptions that left you wondering, such as, "spines coming out of their forearms"... That is the only description I found describing the Mantis-kinden. There is so much more I want to know!! Maybe I was spoiled b ...more
Jared Millet
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing debut, and I in no way expected to enjoy it as much as I did. It was certainly the most fun fantasy novel I've read in a long time. It's a comparison not many will make, but this book made me feel the same as when I first read Weis & Hickman's DragonLance novels back in the 80s, before elves, dwarves, and D&D character classes became worn out cliches. The world of Shadows of the Apt does have the feel of a gaming universe, complete with its own races and classes, but the ones ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Abandoned at 20%

This just isn't something I'm going to like and it's too long to continue just so I can "finish" it.

The good is it's unique. If you're tired of clichés and fantasy tropes maybe you should give this a whirl.

It's about a nation of bug people, beetles, spiders, ants, and others, and a new type of invading bug men that are wasps. This was a part of my problem. Are they men with the attributes of these bugs? Are they men with some of the features of these bugs? Or are they bugs with m
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, magic, war, steampunk
This book was lent to me so I had no idea what it was going to be like - I find heavily military fantasy can be a bit of a hit and miss, but I found that I really enjoyed this one!

It's got fantasy, magic, steampunk and a fascinating insect ancestry origins of which are hinted at but not fully explained (at least in this book). Each race has its pros and cons which is interesting to see as well as how each race views each other, the histories and prejudices they have.

This book doesn't mess around
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series caught my attention when I was on the hunt for a new steampunk read. When I investigated deeper, I found it wasn’t the kind of steampunk read I was accustomed to, and that made me more curious. Thus, I had high hopes when I jumped into Empire in Black and Gold. I was eager for a wonderful mix of steampunk and high fantasy, a book that would hook me.

My feelings towards Empire in Black and Gold are very mixed. At first, I could not get into the story.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short summary:

The population of the world is divided into kinden, which each carry the name of, and display some characteristics of certain insects or arachnids, like flies, wasps, mantises, beetles, scorpions etc. (I wonder if there are Ladybird kinden?)
In the east, there lies the Wasp Empire, threatening to engulf the Lowland citystates.
In the City of Collegium, the centre of learning in the Lowlands, a quartet of friends, students and aspiring duellists, get recruited as spies by Stenwold Mak
136th book of 2019.

All the frikkin epic-fantasy stars!!!!!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

'Empire in Black and Gold' was a long time coming. I started, life happened, I put it down. I tried again, got busy, rinse repeat ad nauseam.

Now I understand, it was never the right time for me...
But December 2019 sure was!!

This book started slow, that's why we had a rocky beginning, but it delivers. Chapter after chapter, it delivers.

We have all the usuals in fantasy: found family (band of randoms), epic quest, seasoned advice giv
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ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY was born in Lincolnshire and studied zoology and psychology at Reading, before practising law in Leeds. He is a keen live role-player and occasional amateur actor and is trained in stage-fighting. His literary influences include Gene Wolfe, Mervyn Peake, China Miéville, Mary Gently, Steven Erikson, Naomi Novak, Scott Lynch and Alan Campbell.

Other books in the series

Shadows of the Apt (10 books)
  • Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt, #2)
  • Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt, #3)
  • Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4)
  • The Scarab Path (Shadows of the Apt, #5)
  • The Sea Watch (Shadows of the Apt, #6)
  • Heirs of the Blade (Shadows of the Apt, #7)
  • The Air War (Shadows of the Apt, #8)
  • War Master's Gate (Shadows of the Apt, #9)
  • Seal of the Worm (Shadows of the Apt, #10)

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29 likes · 8 comments
“You're not like other Wasps."
"Aren't I?" Aagen smiled, but it was a painful smile. "No doubt you've killed my kinsmen by the score."
"A few," Salma allowed.
"Well, next time you shed my kinden's blood, think on this: we are but men, no less nor more than other men, and we strive and feel joy and fail as men have always done. We live in the darkness that is the birthright of us all, that of hurt and ignorance, only sometimes... sometimes there comes the sun." He let the bowl fall from his fingers to the floor, watching it spin and settle, unbroken.”
“And then it dropped lower, and her eyes caught it in all its pale majesty. It was a moth, no more, no less, but as it circled down towards them she saw that its furry body was larger than that of a horse, its wingspan awesome, each wing as long as six men laid end to end. It had a small head, eyes glittering amongst the glossy fur behind frond-like antennae that extended forward in delicate furls. As it landed, the sweep of its wings extinguished most of their little fires.” 4 likes
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