“The Traitor Baru Cormorant” is a complex and dense fantasy tale exploring the nuances of power and oppression. It starts off with a glimpse of a society that seems comfortable and self-sustaining but insidiously deepens into a frightening look at the effects of conquest in the name of alliance as those from a more ‘advanced’ society impose their will. Watching Baru navigate the treacherous shoals that surround her was wearying for me, as she is drawn further and further onto a slippery slope in her pursuit of a personal endpoint.
I should have been forewarned by the title that this would be a fairly dark story but, like Baru, I was drawn in by curiosity, and once enmeshed in the story, I felt compelled to see it through to the end, no matter how uncomfortable I began to find it. The author has done a very good job of creating enigmatic characters who have inscrutable endgames in mind, combined with a plethora of mysteries, but I was dismayed by the constant jockeying of an ever-increasing cast of characters who don’t cavil at ruthless behavior. Watching Baru struggle to survive requires persistence and fortitude, in a mirror of her situation, and I was left uneasy and unsatisfied at the end of this story, knowing that I would not ever be ruthless enough to survive in her society, nor would I want to. It seemed like there were so many avenues that were touched upon but not explored completely that I felt cheated at times.
There are plenty of dangling threads to warrant other books, and this story demonstrates thought-provoking imagination, but it is not to my taste, as I like to establish a deeper rapport with the characters and to have a sense of satisfaction at the end of the tale and that wasn’t possible for me with this story.
Seth Dickinson’s debut novel, “The Traitor Baru Cormorant” spins out the tale of a young woman who learns to maneuver within the dictates of the society that singles her out to train even as it subjugates and attempts to eradicate the culture she comes from. Determined to conquer the enemy from within, Baru accepts a position in a distant land and becomes active in the struggle for power that continues to teach her how to get closer to her goal, even as she must decide what price is too high to achieve what she wants.
In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.
Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.
When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.
Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.
But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.