In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race, a junior anthropologist on a distant planet must help the locals he has sworn to study to save a planet from an unbeatable foe.
Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way.
But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she’s an adult (albeit barely) and although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as long as her people have lived here (though none in living memory has approached it).
But Elder Nyr isn’t a sorcerer, and he is forbidden to help, for his knowledge of science tells him the threat cannot possibly be a demon…
I’m a big Adrian Tchaikovsky fan. Children of Time and Cage of Souls are two of my favorite sci-fi books and I’ve read a few other of his books as well. I had yet to dive into any of his novellas, and when I saw this*, I knew I needed to read it.
Elder Race begins as a classic fantasy story with a young princess out on a quest to prove herself by going to get the reclusive of a sorcerer to come fight the demon hurting her people. However, this is Tchaikovsky, so nothing is quite as it seems.
I don’t want to spoil this too much, so if a different kind of fantasy story mixed with science intrigues you, I highly recommend picking this up. Well written, good characters and filled with interesting ideas and developments, this is a great novella.
Ok, if you want a few more details, minor spoilers for the story follow (worth noting that other reviews include many of these minor spoilers as does the basic description).
The premise of the story hinges on the fact that the great sorcerer is actually an anthropologist sent from Earth to study a far off distant colony as they evolve and grow. His crew has left him and he is awoken from sleep asked to join the princess on her quest. In each proceeding chapter, the story flips the perspective of the narrative. Lyn, the princess’s story is told from typical 3rd person fantasy POV, while Nyr, the sorcerer’s is told from first person present tense with a distinct sci-fi feel and flavor.
It’s a super unique style of book and there’s one chapter in particular that knocked my socks off with how it was written. I really enjoyed seeing the world from each of their perspectives and how that changed the style of the book itself. The only fault with this style is the switch from 3rd person to 1st person present tense can be jarring at times, taking me out of the story. But this was a minor flaw.
Now, Tchaikovsky always does super fascinating stuff with technology, time, and nature. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to me that it there were also plenty of other interesting ideas in this story such as a prohibitor on emotions and the challenge of relating to a culture that has shifted over time while you observed from a distance along with many other ideas.
Overall, Elder Race is a great mash up of sci-fi and fantasy that deserves to be read by anyone looking for a unique take on an old formula!
*Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy to review!