2011’s Heirs of the Blade is the seventh volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series.
None of Tynisa’s closest friends have seen Tynisa since she fled after mortally wounding her foster-sister’s lover. She was not really responsible, as she was mesmerized by an enemy spellcaster at the time. Still, the guilt haunts her. So does the memory of Salma, Prince-Minor Salme Dien, whom she loved but lost to another and then to death on the battlefield.
Tynisa ventures to Leose, princely seat of Salma’s family the Salmae. There she meets his aristocratic family. She meets also meets Salma’s brother Alain, who might almost be Salma’s twin. Small wonder if she allows herself to fall for the silver-tongued aristocrat.
The princedom of Leose is deep within the Commonweal, the great inapt power north of the Lowlands. It is far from Collegium, where Tynisa’s former companions live. Nevertheless, Leose is the last place Tynisa should have visited if avoiding her old friends is her purpose. Cheerwell Maker, the very foster-sister whose lover Achaeos Tynisa killed, is also on her way to Leose.
Cheerwell’s ostensible purpose is to pay respect to Salma’s family and to recognize Salma’s sacrifice in the battle against the Wasp Empire. She has a second, secret, purpose.
For a time, Cheerwell believed that she was haunted by her lover’s ghost. Eventually she realized that the entity was a ghost, but not of dead Achaeos. Achaeos is most sincerely dead, having left not even the smallest echo behind The fixated echo is Tisamon, Tynisa’s father. Ghosts are merely the hollow shadows people leave when they die; they may not hold the living in the same warm regard they did before death. Tisamon’s ghost appears dark indeed. Cheerwell is determined to save her foster-sister from the revenant.
Tynisa may not want to be saved.
This instalment of the series features two unfortunate romances. Not terribly surprising since I cannot think of any romance in the Shadows of the Apt series that could be called fortunate.
A: Cheerwell and Thalric. Thalric was an intelligence officer for the Wasps; he also served as a one-time Imperial consort. He has defected from the Wasp Empire. The two first met when Thalric captured Cheerwell, way back at the beginning of the series. He’s officially dead and would be persona non grata in the Empire if known to be alive. He may be a sincere defector … or he may not. This isn’t the first time he has turned his coat. Or the second. So what the heck is Cheerwell thinking?
B; Tynisa and Alain. What the odds are Alain, member of a powerful family in a realm rife with hard-edged politics and complex machinations, might be not entirely a nice person? But Tynisa is still in mourning, still in no shape to carefully think about what sort of fellow her new beau might be beneath the charming surface.
It may be significant that both Cheerwell and Tynisa are inapt, those capable of magic. If I’ve understood the limits of how magic works in this universe, Magic requires unquestioning belief if it is to flicker into existence. And nothing says a magic-using inapt’s credulousness will be limited to matters magical. This may seem a bit essentialist but A: this is a setting where people have special powers depending on what kinden they belong to, and B: it’s a setting detail that inapt have at least one cognitive deficit: they cannot understand complex machines at all .
As camping trips with Cheerwell go, this one resulted in comparatively few fatalities, only a few hundred at most. She is still near the top of my list of people with whom not to go on field trips.
Heirs of the Blade functions well enough as a standalone; new readers get enough information to follow the plot. It’s also succeeds at furthering the grander plot, which is almost certainly going to involve Seda and Cheerwell determining which of them is the true heir to the old ways. Seda is a product of the Wasp Empire’s love of blood tanistry and not inclined to share.…
1: The inapt would say the apt are the ones with a common profound deficit. The Apt not only cannot perform magic, they cannot wrap their minds around the very idea. The apt have their marvellously complex machines, but they will never know the joy of touching mind to mind with unspeakable horrors.