Review: Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Elder Race by Tchaikovsky, Adrian (ebook)

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I knew I needed this pretty much as soon as I heard what was it about, doubly so when I saw the cover. And after a long string of sub-par reads, a book that actually lived up to its promise was more than welcome.

Lynesse is the fourth daughter of the queen. When a strange monster threatens the land, and nobody seems to want to do anything to help, she goes out to seek the wizard who made a promise to her grandmother. Except the wizard, Nyr, isn’t a wizard at all, but an anthropologist, the last of a technologically advanced civilisation. 

Since this is my most common complaint lately, the plot structure was masterful. The two POVs intertwine and contrast each other perfectly, and there is nothing extraneous, but at the same time, it avoids the common pitfalls of most novellas. There’s just enough story and worldbuilding so it doesn’t feel crammed in or stretched out in any way. Novellas are, in my experience, the hardest length to get the balance right, but Tchaikovsky did it.

Besides, I like stories that play with multi-POV (cough), so the whole “sci-fi from one POV but fantasy from another” gimmick was exactly up my alley. I especially liked the way Tchaikovsky plays with language and language evolution, how the word that, for example, means “science” to Nyr (and its synonyms) are “magic” for Lynesse. It was a thoughtful little touch and solved a few potential plot issues nicely.

The characters…aside from Nyr’s struggles with chronic depression (who of us wouldn’t like DCS?), there wasn’t much to them, but at this short of a length, with this good of a concept, it didn’t bother me at all.

The one thing I wasn’t a fan of was the body horror. I’m sensitive to it in the first place, it was on the worse end, and took me completely by surprise. But, all in all, this is more a matter of taste and appropriate warnings, and does not detract from the book much.

Most highly recommended. 

Enjoyment: 4.5/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: those who want a story that takes “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable for magic” to its logical extremes, language nerds, anyone who wants to see a premise that would usually take an epic trilogy masterfully executed in the span of a novella, those looking for a protagonist with mental health issues
Not recommended to: those very sensitive to body horror

Content warnings: body horror, bad

2 thoughts on “Review: Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky”

  1. Lovely review!!!! I adored that one particular chapter where we have the same conversation in almost two different languages. Such masterful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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