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Dragonfly Falling

Posted by Steve the Bookstore Guy On Thursday, May 06, 2010

We love when sequels improve upon their predecessors. You'll recall we gave a favorable review to Adrian Tchaikovsky's EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD. Sure, there were issues with it, but that doesn't mean the book wasn't good. The second book in Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series is DRAGONFLY FALLING, and for the most part it improves upon the original in every way.

DRAGONFLY picks up right where EMPIRE ends. The Wasp Empire is is poised to invade the Lowlands, and are beginning with strategic cities used in trade and manufacturing. Our main cast of characters from EMPIRE are all here, and are in different corners of the known world trying to convince different races to band together against the Wasps. Really, this sounded like it could have become bogged down in people talking and negotiating. This kind of thing bugs us (Get it? Bugs? Never mind...) Did that happen? Uh, no.

You see, DRAGONFLY FALLING is all about war. Lots and lots and lots (that's a lot of lots) of war.

We love action and war scenes as much as the next reader, and these scenes are well done for the most part. But while they strengthen the novel, they simultaneously hurt it. Especially in the middle of the novel, the pacing is lacking. Or maybe it was just because we began to feel jaded by all the war and siege. Seriously, there is enough war here for three novels. Three big novels. The pacing does pick up nicely at the end, and Tchaikovsky does a good job illustrating the horrors of war, but man, we are talking nearly 500 pages of wars and battles. Even to us, it was a tad excessive.

"Well gee-whiz guys," you say, "why should I even read it then?" Why? Because we say so. Also because of the characters, world, and the introduction to some awesomely sinister stuff brewing behind the scenes.

What Tchaikovsky does best, we've decided, is make his characters unique and likable. He humanizes (insectizes?) nearly every character that is introduced, no matter what side of the conflict they are on. There are the characters who fall definitively on the Good Guy/Bad Guy teams, but the majority end up in the middle. True to our hive-mind...uh...mentality, we both were floored by how effortlessly we liked characters that were newly introduced. Our main PoVs are growing up and making hard and meaningful choices. The new PoVs grab our attention and refuse to let it go.

The world Tchaikovsky has created just gets better with every page of his series. New races--some previously thought as myths--pop up, and we get a better look at the already-introduced ones. We specifically liked the concurrent wars going on with the Ants towards the end of the book. One army was good, one army was bad; but they weren't fighting each other. It was executed extremely well both in terms of writing, and in emotional impact. In addition, the industrial revolution in this setting is fascinating, and the invention of new weaponry and transportation is superbly done.

Beneath all of it, we get a strong sense of the sinister. We love the sinister. So should you.

Did Tchaikovsky solve all the issues we had with EMPIRE? No. The PoV switching is still jarring in places, though it HAS improved. The clarity of fight scenes? Still rough in places, but again improved. In short, with DRAGONFLY Tchaikovsky has done nothing to put us off of the series, and has done a lot to make us want more. While not for everyone--and some people just won't like the exclusive focus on war in DRAGONFLY--we positively enjoyed it, and liked it even more than book one. Thankfully we have book three, BLOOD OF THE MANTIS, sitting on the top of our stack of books to review, and book four, SALUTE THE DARK was just announced by Pyr.

Recommended Age: 16 and up.
Language: Some, but nothing excessive.
Violence: It's a novel filled with war. There is a lot of violence, especially when new inventions are introduced.
Sex: Never any shown. It is alluded to and described, but never explicit.

We would feel terrible if we didn't again mention how awesome the covers are for this series. EMPIRE was cool. DRAGONFLY was excellent. MANTIS (which we'll review in a few weeks or so) is unbelievable. John Sullivan is the artist. His work is fantastic.

His website:

And, of course, Adrian's website:


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