Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (L)

Synopsis: Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They'll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she'll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free. In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery - and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu. But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full. (from the back of the book)

Review: This book. I was not prepared for how intense this book is. It starts with the methodical and sinister conquering of Baru’s homeland, not by military might, but by money. Brilliant and bold, she determines to avenge her family and home by gaining power. And gain she does. Using her mind, she masters the financial aspects of the conquering Empire and is appointed a powerful spot over another conquered land. But there, there she encounters forbidden love, rebellion, treachery, and worst of all – her own weakness.
It’s hard to review without spoiling the story. The beginning, telling of her rise to power, mostly covers political maneuverings and the economics of the new land. Dickinson’s world building here is fantastic – complex, intriguing, detailed, rich, and vibrant – and disturbing. The Cold Cellar and the Masks and the Eugenics and the Hygiene. There is almost a touch of horror to the prose.  It is a fantasy world with touches of steampunk. In this world, instead of magic, there is science. And those that control science use it to horrible ends. As Baru becomes entangled in the politics, the story picks up. And what happens from there is thrilling, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and terrifying. 

Worth reading, but not for the faint of heart. The end left me devastated; my mind a torrent of emotions. Excellent story-telling. Read it!

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8072-2
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 4-24-2017
Pages: 399

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