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Publisher's Summary

Empire in Black and Gold is the first novel in Adrian Tchaikovsky's critically acclaimed epic fantasy series The Shadows of the Apt.

The days of peace are over....

The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace and prosperity for decades: bastions of civilisation and sophistication. That peace is about to end.

In far-off corners, an ancient Empire has been conquering city after city with its highly trained armies and sophisticated warmaking.... And now it's set its sights on a new prize. 

Only the ageing Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see the threat. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people - as soon a tide will sweep down over the Lowlands and burn away everything in its path.

But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire's latest victim.

Empire in Black and Gold is followed by the second book in the Shadows of the Apt series, Dragonfly Falling.

©2020 Adrian Tchaikovsky (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

What listeners say about Empire in Black and Gold

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Super Original and Very Underrated

I've been waiting YEARS for Shadows of the Apt to be recorded as an audiobook, and I'm so glad the day is finally here. This is a series that rivals all of the big Epic Fantasy blockbusters out there (Sanderson, Jordan, GRRM, etc). The setting is incredibly original but easy to understand, the characters are all well drawn and easy to root for, and the story is paced beautifully - I couldn't stop listening!

I had not previously listened to Ben Allen narrate anything, but he does a great job - lots of different accents that go a long way in helping me keep track of which characters are talking. I will definitely listen to the rest of this series, and look for other audiobooks from Ben Allen as well!

Easy 5 Stars, and I already purchased Book 2!

13 people found this helpful

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A hidden gem in Epic Fantasy

More reviews at undertheradarsffbooks.com

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 entire series including its first release on audible. The audible edition is performed by the very talented Ben Allen and he does a smashing job. Every single characters voice was performed brilliantly and I mentioned to Ben that one scene in a haunted forest was done so well that he literally game me the chills! Ok, that’s enough about me gushing about this story.

The Lowlands is a world and civilization unlike any other you have read in the fantasy genre and I can guarantee that! There are several different races of humans in this world with each race being referred to as a different Kinden. A Kinden is a race of human that based on the aspects of different insects!. I know this may sound strange but let me explain how it works. The world consists of several different types of Kinden: beetles, ants, dragonfly, mantis, spider, moth, wasp etc… Each Kinden contains their own skills or magic abilities. Beetle-Kinden tend to be short with round build and they are very smart with the ability to build machines. Ant-Kinden are short but very strong soldiers to go to war and they can communicate in each others minds without talking. Mantis-Kinden are elite soldiers similar to a samurai and very prideful. Finally Wasp-Kinden are magic users who can fly, but not very strong as a group. All of these Kinden and so much more inhabit this world and Adrian Tchaikovsky has taken my breath away with his imagination and creative genius!

There is so much that happens in just this one book that I believe it could have been split up into a trilogy. This is a dream come true for me as I read these books almost decade ago and it deserves a much wider audience and fanbase. Lets get into the synopsis: 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, its killing Art…And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable. Only the ageing Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path. But first he must stop himself becoming the Empire’s latest victim.

We follow several characters on this journey and each one is better than the next. First we follow Cheerwell Maker: Stenwold’s niece and student at the collegium. Beetle-Kinden curious about the world and its inhabitants until the war is brought to her front door. Next we follow Tynisa: Stenwolds student and ward. Spider-Kinden who finds that she has no interest in the learning and knowledge of building machines but instead wishes to take up the way of the sword. Then we have Tisamon: Mantis-Kinden and a fierce warrior. Guilted by the betrayal of his once friend, he had lived in isolation for the past 17 years until Stenwold calls for help and the war with the wasps begin. Finally there is Achaeos: Moth-Kinden on a secret mission until it goes horrible wrong, He is a seer in training and his scenes involving his powers were the one of my favorite parts of the story.

Each Kinden has its own history and predigests towards the others. Beetles, Ants, and Flies were slaves, cowed by the powerful sorceries of their masters that they couldn’t even comprehend. The Lowlands were ruled by the Moth-Kinden, with the assistance of the Mantis-Kinden. This relationship is summed up in the commonly used phrase Masters of the Grey, Servants of the Green. This was until the revolution happened and the slaves rose up with the might force of the machines to overtake their masters and magic is now practiced in certain areas.

Now that we got that out of the way, lets get into the writing. If you have read any of Adrian Tchaikovsky other novels, you already know how much of a wizard his with words. Beautifully and methodically written with suspense and tension lurking around every corner. It had been almost a decade since I first read this and I was still shocked and how much I didn’t remember and I left with a huge smile on my face ready to dive into book 2. This book does have some very dark moments including a torture scene, a brutal murder, and the very brief glimpse of a rape scene (nothing graphic or descriptive), in case these types of scenes are hard to read for some readers.

I consider this series a must read for any lover of epic fantasy and those readers who are looking for something completely different in the SFF community. It is a crime that this series is such an unknown to the vast majority of fantasy readers and I will take it upon myself to correct this injustice. This is in my top 5 greatest epic fantasy series ever written and I hope you will see this work for the grand epic it truly is.

Thank you Ben Allen for your wonderful contribution to this series and keep the good work!

Adrian, I can’t begin to express my gratitude for creating this masterpiece and I hope many will appreciate this work and all its glory! It has changed the way I want stories to be told forever and I have you to thank!

Cheers!

10 people found this helpful

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An interesting genetic mix of humans and insects

Adrian Tchaikovsky creates a fantasy of medieval environs where magic is on the wane while the industrial revolution is waxing. Additionally, the humans are broken into races that are more like different species than sub-species, each taking on characteristics of the insects they are classified under. The backdrop of the story is one insect-human clan is forming an empire, destined to achieve world domination by conquering other city-states through subterfuge, guile, betrayal and martial prowess.The author frames the conquering empire as a mixture between Roman and Third Reich might and philosophy.

While this began interestingly, what in the midst of a battle and shrouded in rage over betrayal, it soon moved from the battle-frenzy excitement to a more slow-paced "cloak and dagger" narrative with ample amounts of backstory filler. Much of it was worthwhile and more fully establishing the primary characters, a lot of it was uneventful and slowing the pace.

Also, what's with creating steampunk-ish multi-legged automobiles rather than ones with, I don't know?, wheels?!

Ben Allen's performance was quite good, especially in correctly capturing distinct male and female tenors.

2 people found this helpful

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Refreshing

This stands out in what seems to be a world of young-adult quality writing. You can look forward to a very unique world, great characters, and believable villains. Quite a few twists I didn't expect that brought value to the story. I hope the same quality of writing can be extended for the duration of the series. The next book is an immediate buy for me. To be clear, this is 'adult' quality writing only in that it doesn't insult your intelligence just listening to it.

2 people found this helpful

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Master Storyteller

Tchaikovsky is a master storyteller and wordsmith. Ben Allen’s narration is superb. Black and Gold is on par with the very best of the best of science fiction/fantasy novels.

2 people found this helpful

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first scifi spiders now this masterpiece

Well, I first discovered this author from Children of Time and thought to myself "well this is just because I am bored and I liked his writing, but it isn't really my thing"

This book is good enough to make you switch sides and like whatever gener this is (not 100% on that really). The world is rich, the characters are round and lifelike, and the story is compelling.

Stop reading this and aquire this book so that it gets popular enough for me to buy a t-shirt in reference to it.

1 person found this helpful

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Great start of a fantasy series!

I read the first 3 books of this series years ago and I'm glad the author is offering them as audiobooks. Wish I had continued but I kept losing that 3rd book. Story and characters are wonderful. Now I can finally finish this series by the end of 2021.

This narrator in particular does the voices very well and deserves praise.

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Nice new world, odd pacing and distracting plot decisions

Not sure why he chose 17 years later for things to come to a head. It creates so many questions in my mind. Why not more scouting? Why didn’t he send an expedition, in a flyer with representatives from the councils? Why not maps of the expanding empire? If stenwald was recurring for his “team” how does he only have one class of students to choose from after 17 years!
There are also some very distraction scene/location changes that had me rewinding to check if I missed something.
Narrator did a great job.
I liked this “world”.

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super book

The book is well written and well narrated. I listen while I sew. Easy to follow.

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Simply Wonderful!

Wonderfully imaginative and detailed world building; fully fleshed, well rounded characters - this book is the whole package. Make it past the relatively pedestrian first 2 chapters, and the ride goes faster and higher and faster and higher all the rest of the way!

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  • Zoe Lewis
  • 03-08-21

Narration gold

I read and loved these books ages ago and wanted to revisit via audio book. Not all books translate well into audio but I can honestly say this could have been written for the audio market. The story is wonderful, setting you up for a journey into a new world that quickly becomes navigable. The characters are distinct with masterful accents that make it so much easier to bond with them. The narration is perfectly paced. I couldn't be happier with this purchase and am excited to get started on the whole series.

1 person found this helpful

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  • louis daniel tetley beazley
  • 04-05-21

Enjoyed

Good story, I am looking forward to listening to the next! A top contemporary author!

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  • Finnian Cresswell
  • 01-25-21

Superb!

Thoroughly enjoyed hearing the characters I had read about given such wonderful life! Adore the series and adore this brilliant opening to one of the most inventive fantasy worlds I have encountered!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-12-21

great story with fantastic narration

I read this series years ago and am so pleased to see it out on audible. Ben Allen does a great job of distinguishing the different characters and maintaining their voices throughout.
I love the ingenuity of this series and find that I really ended up caring about the characters and what happens to them.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-10-20

Awesome

Having read this book I know how good this series is and I have been waiting for the audio book.
After hearing Ben Allen for a few sentences I am so excited to here him bring some of my favourite characters to life I will be updating this review after iv finished it

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-21

great

took a while to get into it but once hooked thoroughly enjoyed it. wonder if there is a sequel..