July 10, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

spiderSpiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky


This is one of those books where I wish I had live-Tweeted my reading experience, since when I started, I wasn’t impressed. At all. Admittedly, Children of Time had set me up with high expectations, but I wasn’t expecting a story that started off sounding like someone’s last D&D adventure, complete with rogue, mage, barbarian, thief, wizard, and prophecized quest. It felt so derivative and so common that I started wondering if Time had been a fluke. In my notes, I wrote, “it’s fantasy, it’s a quest, it’s irreverent … and it’s frankly not as engaging”.

Fortunately, that was just the first chapter.

The second chapter started out with an effective, evocative piece of horror, which brought my attention back. I hung on a bit longer, the story started to develop, I started to get a hint of something larger than the story, and then I realized exactly what Tchaikovsky was doing. He was taking all the standard tropes of fantasy fiction and subverting them. Completely. He makes the reader question the motives of any character in fantasy, and forces them to look at events from another perspective.

He also imbues his story with a sense of humor that borders on irreverence. It helps to get a better feel for the story when the powerful wizard just wants to set everything on fire, or when the thief can’t help needling the barbarian. Tchaikovsky also adds heavier themes to his story, like the rogue having to constantly deflect the barbarian’s advances because, after one tryst, he thinks she belongs to him. That helps us remember that this is still a serious story with important things to say. And then he adds his own commentary on the genre itself that makes us question what we’ve taken for granted:

… he was thinking about all those powerful men and women … sitting on their hands for decades, knowing that [evil] was out there, and defeatable, but feeling no particular inclination to go do it, because they knew that someone else would eventually take up the slack. Which is exactly the problem with prophecies.

It makes you look at your favorite epic fantasy series a bit differently, huh?

The story is compelling, the themes are thoughtful, and the characters are vivid and likable. And the ending … well. I’m not spoiling a thing, but there’s nothing disappointing about it. My concerns at the beginning were unfounded, and after reading Children of Time, I shouldn’t have doubted Tchaikovsky. Spiderlight is fantastic.

Started: May 29, 2018
Finished: June 13, 2018

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