Quick Review: SPIDERLIGHT by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com)

Tchaikovsky-SpiderlightA fantastic “novella” from one of my favourite authors

The Church of Armes of the Light has battled the forces of Darkness for as long as anyone can remember. The great prophecy has foretold that a band of misfits, led by a high priestess will defeat the Dark Lord Darvezian, armed with their wits, the blessing of the Light and an artifact stolen from the merciless Spider Queen.

Their journey will be long, hard and fraught with danger. Allies will become enemies; enemies will become allies. And the Dark Lord will be waiting, always waiting…

I loved Spiderlight. I was already a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s work before starting this, and so had very high expectations for Spiderlight. I was not at all disappointed, and indeed the story exceeded my expectations. A must-read for the year.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is known for writing real fantasy door-stoppers, so this roughly 200-page book counts as a novella for him. It is excellently paced, tightly written, and not infrequently amusing. I zipped through this.

The story is a classic fellowship-quest fantasy, only with some contemporary twists. The characters are, of course, all flawed in their way — including a wizard of staggering arrogance, an insecure barbarian, a cheeky thief, a noble paladin, an inflexible priestess… Each of the characters, as can be expected, has their beliefs and world-views confronted and challenged in various, interesting ways over the course of the story. The author doesn’t take his subject too seriously, and there are plenty of examples of poking-of-fun and deconstruction of some of the genre’s most beloved or over-used tropes. It comes from a place of love, though.

There is also Nth: one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a long while. You see, Nth is a spider. It wouldn’t really be a Tchaikovsky story without something bug-related, and in this story he offers us a twist on what we know from his Shadows of the Apt series. In that epic, ten-book series, humans have insect-like aspects, giving them different abilities and strengths. In Spiderlight, Nth is a spider who is transformed into a human. Over the course of the novella, he comes to grips with his different senses, altered world-view, and also new and not-altogether-welcome emotions. The animosity of the group towards him is a central aspect of the story, as their prejudices are tested by his actions.

The ending was great, but that’s all I’m going to say about it. A nice twist, one I hadn’t seen coming.

A must-read for all fans of fantasy. Very highly recommended.

*

Spiderlight is published by Tor.com on August 2nd, 2016.

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing — Writing Guns of the Dawn, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places: Fantasy & Religion” and “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire in Black & Gold and Guns of the Dawn

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