William's Reviews > The Sea Watch
The Sea Watch (Shadows of the Apt, #6)
Apr 09, 2011
“The Sea Watch” is in some ways a bit of break from the previous five books in the series. Not only is it one of the more stand-alone of the books (it is the first in the series where the threat from the Wasp Empire isn’t a major part of the story), it is also the most focused on a single character, namely academic and unlikely spymaster Stenwold Maker. It gets off to a fairly slow start, with the first couple of hundred pages being devoted to Stenwold trying to deal with political intrigue in Collegium and a potential new threat from their rivals in the Spiderlands. There is then a sudden change of scene as the focus fixes instead to a different threat originating from the aquatic world of the previously unknown Sea Kinden. In some ways this is a first contact story, much of the novel being taken up by Stenwold and his companions’ encounter with an alien civilisation they never even realised existed, and the civilisation is indeed more alien than that of any of the other kinden described so far in the series. There are a number of very imaginative ideas in the world-building and the Sea Kinden world is in some ways very different to any other place I’ve read about and it does manage to feel fresh (an unusual thing in fantasy). This is despite the world-building occasionally feeling a bit hurried, due to the pace of the story we don’t spend a huge amount of time in the main settlements of Hermatyre or the Hot Stations and therefore I didn’t feel I knew them as well as Khanaphes in the previous book. The plot is also consistently entertaining, with a fair amount of intrigue, some unusual battle scenes, a satisfying detestable villain in the form of Hermatyre’s ruler, a compelling antihero in the form of the Spider lord Teornis and even a gang of mercenaries somewhat reminiscent of the TV show “Firefly”. I enjoyed it a lot, but wouldn’t quite say it was the best in the series. The pacing isn’t as satisfying as in “The Scarab Path”, and although Stenwold is a decent character I don’t find him the most interesting character in the series and arguably he doesn’t develop that much as a character in the book.
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