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.
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Dickinson's debut, the start of a trilogy set in an impressively well-crafted fantasy world, is assured and impressive. After the island nation of Taranoke is conquered by the far-flung Empire of Masks, its culture and traditions are suppressed in favor of the empire's rigid structure. Baru Cormorant, a young native woman, vows to do whatever it takes to rise to power within the so-called Masquerade so that she might someday free her people. At school, Baru is dubbed a savant; when she's 18, she's appointed to serve as Imperial Accountant for one of the Empire's most troublesome regions, the country of Aurdwynn. There, Baru engages in a dangerous economic game against the empire and the quarrelsome dukes of Aurdwynn, always keeping to her own agenda while repressing her innermost longings, including her desires for other women. When her manipulations force the dukes into all-out revolution, she must pick a side and risk everything. Readers will share every one of Baru's strong, suppressed emotions. Dickinson's worldbuilding is ambitious and his language deviously subtle; both are seductive in their complexity. He combines social engineering, economic trickery, and coldhearted pseudoscientific theories to weave a compelling, utterly surprising narrative that keeps readers guessing until the end.
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The Traitor Baru Cormorant
Quite brilliant. Many themes examined in this most modern sci-fi/fantasy book. Reminiscent of the politics and themes of empire in Dune and Game of Thrones. However this world, if possible has more depth, more nuance but no less violence, ruthlessness or terrible purpose.