Empire in black and gold (Tchaikovsky, Adrian)(Shadows of the Apt, Bk. 1)(2008, paperback)

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The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace and prosperity for decades: bastions of civilisation and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbours.

But meanwhile, in far-off corners, a warlike Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, it’s killing Art…..Snd now its hunger for conquest and bloodshed has become insatiable.

Only the ageing Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path. But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire’s latest victim.