PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

It is pretty hard to deny that Clarke Award-winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky is fond of spiders.  His work Shadows of The Apt and Children of Time both feature our eight-legged friends pretty heavily, and this new book puts them front and centre.

Spiderlight, however, is a bit different from Adrian’s other books. For a start, it’s a far lighter read and much shorter than his usual epic work. The world is simply drawn, but the devil is in the details. The Church of Armes of The Light battles the Darkness. The Light side, of course, is made up of humans. The Darkness is led by a Dark Lord called Darvezian and is composed of all sorts of horrible creatures, including giant spiders. There is a prophecy, and it says that the only way to defeat the Dark Lord is via spider’s fang and spider’s path.

This leads a typical bunch of heroic adventurers to raid the lair of a Spider Queen. The party, made up of a Priest of the Light, a wizard, a thief, a ranger, and a knight succeed in their task. But in order to know the spider’s path, the Spider Queen cuts the party a deal. They have to take one of her kin with them, in order to follow the route they need to complete their quest. This hapless giant spider becomes known as Enth. The party’s wizard transforms the poor creature into something that will pass for human, and thus the real adventure begins.

What Tchaikovsky has done here is take a typical ‘heroes on a quest’ story and has transformed it into a heroic journey into the very nature of heroic journeys. Through the eyes of Enth, we see the stereotypical battle between Light and Darkness in a very different way. The novel also takes on some of the more problematic tropes of the genre; the way the love-sick knight Harathes is handled is particularly memorable. The book works on lots of different levels; on the surface it’s a fun fantasy novel with some clever twists. Digging a little deeper, and it’s a meditation on prejudice and privilege, though without being at all preachy or overly clever about it.

Spiderlight is a great fantasy read from one of the UK’s growing creators of world-class genre storytelling. Worth your time.



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