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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
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The Traitor Baru Cormorant

by Seth Dickinson

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5013830,099 (4.05)32
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This book has a complex plot that makes us think about the morality of trying to change things by working from within. How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to gain a position where we can actually accomplish anything? Can we succeed without compromising ourselves along the way?...[in progress] ( )
  dbsovereign | Feb 4, 2019 |
I have slightly mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the themes are fantastic. Dickinson touches on prejudices in every facet of society, such as racism, classism, sexism, homosexuality, and non-traditional family units. There's the struggle for the conquered to understand their conquerors, to learn the meaning of power and methods for applying it, a stunning usage of economic warfare in place of traditional sword-and-shield combat (although there is some of that as well), and an endless struggle with masks and perception. These aspects were incredibly well integrated into the world that Dickinson created- though he only shows two small parts of that world in this book.

Unfortunately, Dickinson describes very little that caters to the more visually-inclined. The world he paints is a stark one in many ways- full of black and white and many grays, but little or no color. Most of the people are only described in terms of racial characteristics, which supports some of the basic themes but leave them undifferentiated and difficult to visualize, and landscapes barely get mentioned at all (nor structures, beyond the necessity of saying that they exist). The books have no information that feels superfluous, and thus the writing has little personality and little entertainment value in and of itself. It makes up for this with the complexities of its characters, governments, and their schemes.

The internal and external struggles of the protagonist and various secondary characters drives this book entirely- the somewhat artless retelling (it's not really "gritty" or "realistic", as both of those would require more detail in my opinion) of a rather dramatic story. As you delve deeper into the near-robotic mask of the protagonist in the latter half of the book, you may start to feel that the prose has been pruned this way to mirror the humorless life of oppression and ambition that she's submitted herself to- whether or not this is actually the case, I can't tell, but considering it this way made it far easier to enjoy. At the very least, the book is likely shorter because of it, which is a blessing of sorts, because even without flourishes it's quite a few pages already.

That is my largest and only significant complaint- I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the sequel. ( )
  LysanderMSND | Jan 19, 2019 |
This book is quite unusual: while it is formally tagged as a fantasy, it doesn’t have magic or powerful gods or demons or fantastic beasts. This is a story of a nation, colonized by more powerful empire; a story of a girl, who lost one of her fathers to this system, but got an imperial education. She is Baru Cormorant and she is the traitor, just like the title says.

Baru had a mother and two fathers. She was a clever girl, fast to learn. Thus, when the Masquerade came to her homeland, it decided to teach her, ‘uplift’ her. The Empire of Masks or the Imperial Republic, which is often called the Masquerade is a self-righteous meritocracy. It was born from an old empire by killing off the old aristocracy for its indecent practices. The empire doesn’t care about your race or sex or origin. However, it cares a great deal whether you adhere to ‘normal’ practices in bad. Moreover, it promotes eugenics to breed better servants to the throne.

Baru sees her lands incorporated to the empire and the only way to free her homeland is to destroy the Masquerade from inside, but for this she has to became an important player within its hierarchy. Her first important job is an imperial accountant in another imperial colony, which can be seen as the Indian Raj in snows, with many dukes, who are formal rulers of many lands.

This is the first fantasy book I’ve read where the protagonist is a central banker. As an economist, I was very interested in such a development. Sadly enough the author doesn’t understand how banking (and central banking) works or worked in real history. So 5 stars for the idea, but max 2 stars for the execution.

Strong sides of the book are the unique setting, thoughts about ‘progressive’ empires, central banking and the economy in general. Weak sides are too many characters (with names hard to pronounce or remember) and lines, errors about how the monetary policy works. Great premise but not a very good execution.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
This was possibly one of the most talked-about books of the past few months, so it was bound to cross my attention threshold, although some controversial comments led me to believe it not would be an easy read.

he Traitor Baru Cormorant is indeed a complex novel, both in scope and story structure, but it’s also a fascinating one, and it drew me right inside its well-crafted landscape of a society in the throes of change – not all of it welcome.


Full Review at SPACE AND SORCERY BLOG ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
This is a great, fully fleshed out fantasy story. Well, not exactly fantasy, there's no magic. What there is is lots of economics! Money is so rarely dealt with in Sci Fi or Fantasy which makes this such an interesting and different take on the genera. It also has strong believable characters. I did have a little trouble keeping those characters straight at times because of the unusual names, but that my be more my issue than the books. ( )
  ZephyrusW | Dec 16, 2018 |
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A Promise
This is the truth. You will know because it hurts.
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Trade season came around again.
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Book description
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.
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"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"--… (more)

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