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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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Really enjoyed this book. Instead of evil empire, we have a terribly effective empire...and it is a much more frightening thing to behold. Read it. You'll understand why. ( )
  StigE | Aug 25, 2017 |
I don't know what to say about this book except: wow. Incredible.

I had seen all the early high praise for this book, so going in my expectations were sky high. Needless to say, even those expectations were completely blown away by the end.

At 400 pages (hardcover edition) it's not too long of a read, though all of the politics and accounting aspects can get a little confusing. Nevertheless, it's well worth it for the incredible, twisting story that unravels.

Can not recommend enough. ( )
  majesdane | Aug 8, 2017 |
I was intrigued by the evocative title of The Traitor Baru Cormorant ever since I first heard of it. Then I found out that it was about a woman who wants to take down a ruthless empire by rising within its civil service – as an accountant! Political intrigue and worldbuilding are two of my very favourite things in fantasy, and you can’t really have a story about manipulating the economy to bring down a country without either of those things. And I figured that someone with the audacity to base their debut novel’s premise on fantasy economics has to be good enough to do it well. So yes, I had really high expectations for this book, and I was still blown away.

Baru Cormorant is from the island of Taranoke, which has caught the eye of the Empire of Masks (or the Masquerade as it is called derogatorily). The Masquerade doesn’t do anything as overt as actually invading, though – their strategy is much more subtle, starting with getting the Taranoki dependent on their trade, “helping” with Taranoki defense, and opening schools, and before you know it, half of Taranoke is dead from a plague and most of the customs Baru grew up with are declared anathema. Baru recognizes how helpless she and her people are, and resolves to help her people the only way she can think of – by destroying the Masquerade from the inside. She knows her first assignment is a test, though – to subdue the harsh and rebellious country of Aurdwynn, which has always destroyed those who have tried to rule it.

There are so many ways this book could have been done wrong – the trope of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” has been done a lot, and it is hard to sympathize with anything that helps an Evil Empire (and the Empire is definitely Evil – eugenics, cultural superiority, no regard for human life, strict laws on sexual preferences). But Baru is a tremendously compelling character,; she haunted me for weeks after I finished this book. She really wants to be ruthless in her quest for vengeance, and she usually succeeds, but no matter how many atrocities she causes, you can’t help but rejoice at her successes. You see how much she suffers with every betrayal and watch her pull herself back together through sheer force of will, and it’s as beautiful as it is terrible. The Masquerade has shaped Baru for longer than her family of “a huntress and a blacksmith and a shield-bearer” has, and even if it kills her, she must work for it to eventually be able to work against it.

Everything else about the book is extraordinary too – the supporting characters (especially the enigmatic Duchess Tain Hu), the settings (complex and organic cultures, but no stereotypes), the plot (the loans and futures trading are fascinating, but there’s a lot more to it too) – but Baru steals the show, as is apropos of book’s title. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book. ( )
1 vote kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
Baru Cormorant is a child on the island nation of Taranoke when it comes under the rule of foreigners determined to exploit its resources and "civilize" its people. Educated in the invaders' schools, she is declared to be a savant and tapped for service to their Empire. She joins them, determined to free her people from within the power structures of their oppressors, and finds herself first quashing and then leading a rebellion in another of their conquered states.

This starts off with what feels a little too much like an Evils of Colonialism 101 lecture, but fortunately it gets much more complex and nuanced as it goes on. The world building is good, and I give it a lot of points for telling a story about war without focusing too much on tedious blow-by-blow battles, but rather taking in the big picture, including the oft-neglected economic factors. I will admit that, for much of the novel, I had a little difficulty fully immersing myself in it, but on reflection, I don't think that the story's fault at all. I think it's just that it features lots of political intrigue, and reality is giving me more of that than I can handle at the moment, which makes it harder for me to enjoy it in fiction. The moments that pack an emotional punch still really worked for me, regardless. ( )
  bragan | Feb 19, 2017 |
Honestly, this is not my kind of book, but it's very good, if very painful. I recommend it only if you're ok without happy endings (and a lot of descriptions of a homophobic culture). ( )
  on_elc | Aug 22, 2016 |
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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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