A friend of mine had already recommended Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Shadows of the Apt series to me, but even though I bought the first novel in the series, I jumped at the opportunity to read a stand-alone of his first. To give me a taste of his writing style. That opportunity was Spiderlight.
Nth is a spider, a creature of Dark, and completely content to do spidery things, when a group of Man enters the woods he lives in. They burn a path through his many brethren, right up to his mother. He fears for his mother’s live then, and would gladly have given his life to defend hers. But his mother makes a deal with these humans, and one of those conditions is having one of her brood guide them towards the Dark Lord the humans mean to defeat. That guide is be Nth.
Let me tell you up front: I dislike spiders. All of them. I just do. So when I say Adrian Tchaikovsky managed to make me feel empathy and sympathy for a spider, or rather a human/spider hybrid after the humans change his appearance more thoroughly any of them realised, that’s high praise.
Right from the start I was annoyed and disgusted by the humans’ behaviour towards his new form, even though they were the ones who made him into that shape! The only one not disgusted was the mage Penthos, who created his new form, and even he wouldn’t call Nth by his name! He kept calling him creature, and though that was at least better than monster, as Dion, Cyrene and Harathes kept calling him, it was still derogatory.
The decision to have Nth have his own POV was absolutely brilliant, because we’re in his head now. He’s confused, he’s scared and he is basically the slave of a bunch of humans who hate him. Who despise him, and all his kind. His budding friendship with the thief Leif, and his ….relationship of sorts with Cyrene stand in opposition to his ‘nature’ and how Dion, priestess of the Church of Armes of the Light, and Harathes the warrior felt about him and treated him. To see humans, and humanity, through the eyes of a spider is a sad affair. And yet, they’re so understandable, and have so many recognisable flaws.
The hypocrisy of those of the Light was astounding, though not really a surprise. There’s many real world religions who perpetuate the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ dogma. But to see how those ‘of the Light’ acted towards everyone around them, and especially those who were ‘of the Dark’ was eye-opening and maddening. I kept waiting for someone to call Dion, Cyrene and Harathes on their shit, and though Leif definitely made an effort to show them that Nth was on their side, he is only a thief and not as much ‘of the Light’ as they were.
There’s some things I can’t really talk about, because those would be spoilers, but there were some instances where Tchaikovsky went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. There was a certain issue with consent, I enjoyed the ending immensely and I wasn’t expecting a certain someone to be so full of doubt. Either way, I had a blast reading this book, even though it featured many terrible spiders! I recommend Spiderlight to anyone who likes a fun adventure romp, a quest to slay the Dark Lord, and an examination of right and wrong, good and bad, Light and Dark.