A review by dejaghoul
Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

adventurous mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Great premise, but the characters and writing are underdeveloped and the ending is disappointing.

Nyr is clearly the character that Tchaikovsky is more interested in, and the dual narration functions beautifully to bring him to life, but I didn’t feel that there was much more to Lyn than what she tells us about herself in the first few pages. I truly don’t think it’s intentional, but it’s frustrating that the headstrong young woman is utilized mainly to reflect upon and prop up the inner struggles of the main male character.

Regarding the plot—I can accept that a novella will move faster than a novel, and that it leaves some things unsaid in favor of a streamlined story. However, I felt like there was quite a bit of telling vs showing, in a way that was detrimental. One notable moment is when several characters tell stories that reflect their personalities/cultures; instead of actually writing these stories, they’re simply described, which just feels odd and empty.

That’s at around 3/4 of the way through, and it’s around there that the story begins to falter and stumble towards an unsatisfactory ending. The cleverness of the beginning of the book comes from how it contrasts the perceptions of scientist and the magic-believer. So I was hoping—taking for granted, really—that the Big Bad Thing would be something that sounds similarly fantastic and strange but ultimately has a scientific explanation that the reader understands. Without any specific spoilers, the ending is an interesting idea that is not fully explored or explained, and its ambiguity is unsatisfying, especially when combined with the very brief denouement that we, again, experience mainly through telling rather than showing.

Fantastic beginning and middle with the Clarke’s third law stuff and the interpretation of depression, so it’s very sad about the lame ending. I do think it’s still worth reading for the good parts.

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