In Seth Dickinson's highly anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a richly imagined geopolitical fantasy, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire. 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.
©2015 Seth Dickinson (P)2015 Macmillan Audio
The performance is awful. Actually, it's beyond awful. The narrator reads the entire book at the same plodding pace with no intonation, inflection or emotion. When there's no personal pronoun in the text, you'll have no idea if spoken text is by a man or a woman, let alone who they are. Improper annunciation left me really struggling with the fantasy-style names of people and places, many of which are very similar. Listen to the audio sample and decide if you can live with 14 hours of it.
The production isn't great either for not only are there some edit mid-sentence which are completely obvious, there are even a couple of bad splices causing a bit of a stutter.
I found it a painful listen which totally ruined the book for me.
The end,even though i worked it out it still had an impact.
On of the best novels of the year
"A triumph of a debut!"
A terribly cunning display of the untrustworthy narrator (it's in the title, after all!) Baru is an incredibly engaging protagonist, and this fantastical political thriller keeps you guessing about loyalties, love, and what drives a person to ultimate treachery. This narrative weaves a spectacular warning to the readers: of social injustice, imperialism and the profound danger and power that comes from being truly alone in your mind. Machiavellian machinations in a spectacular feat of world building. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
"Read for detail explainations, skip otherwise"
This is a hard one to recommend as it really depends on your taste. Especially since it's a long book, make sure you know what your getting into before starting.
As a child Baru Cormorant witness the Empire of Masks conquer her homeland. Not through war but with economics, trade policies and cultural assimilation. Baru vows to tear down this empire from the inside by pretending to be loyal to gain power. Will Baru be able to avoid corruption that comes with power, can she stand by and not only watch, but be the instrument of the empire in conquering another culture, or join their rebellion at the cost of her revenge. Will her outlawed secret desires be discovered?
It reads like a text book on colonialism. It covers in extreme details everything from economics, taxes & trade policies, cultural assimilation, diplomacy, naval & land battles, and family lineage. Often times it feels like the narrative is secondary to allow the author to show us the vast world his has created.
Personally, while I found most of the technical details interesting, and presented with purpose, it started to bog me down and become tiring the last third or quarter. I really liked the ending, I can't say anything about it without spoiling it but it reminded me of a classic story whose ending I also really liked. I can't say which classic without spoiling.
Read if you're REALLY into world building, how things work behind the scenes in terms of politics, bureaucracy and economics. If you read all the in game lore you can find in video games, then give this a read.
"All the charm of a Nazi collaborater"
This is the tale of a collaborator, told from her point of view. It tracks her journey throughout her "accomplishments" and betrayals in service of a political system which combines a Nazi like racial philosophy with a sexual one. In the end she becomes part of the system she continuously claims she is trying to subvert from within while becoming more like their ideal than them. It is only a few times that she shows any hint of humanity and her weaknesses are clearly paper tigers to be knocked over. Needless to say it becomes both highly predictable and unrealistic, which means it can only be a shadow of great works like 1984. At the end the author tries once again to excuse her loyalty to party over friends or family, even to ordering their death, but it rings hollow. Despite the hype, I suggest you skip this one.
"Blame the narrator?"
I read the first pages of this novel before I decided to buy the audiobook an I was really looking forward to listening to it. But Christine Marshall really took all joy out of listening. All I could think when I was listening was why she was in such a hurry. I actually couldn't finish the novel because of the bad narration. This is some of the worst case of a narrator massacring a novel.
"Great story, terrible reader"
This is an incredibly incentive and gripping story. The audio book narrator, however, seems not to have been familiar with the English words "duchy" and "elided," which was frustrating and distracting.
"Fantastic story, robotic narrator"
Really enjoyed the story but the narrator sounds like a computer program and offers very little variance between character voices.
"Phenomenal Story of Empire and Power"
Yes, the narrator adds a rich layer of character to the characters and makes them come alive.
Baru. Even though the story is told entirely from her perspective her actions still leave the reader guessing at every turn.
No, this is the first narration I've heard her give and will certainly keep an eye out for her in the future.
Baru Cormorant, a girl growing up in the Empire of Masks, must learn the pathways of power to stay alive and save her homeland.
"Not Sure What the Hype is About"
So let's be completely honest. This book is a pretty boring "fantasy" novel (although there's no magic, so it's more of an economic/political medieval fiction). It is basically the story of an empire's conquest and rule over tribal lands, with a very Orwellian stance of "Big Brother" politics, with a lot of nods to both the Roman Empire and Communism. But the only reason I can think of it getting such rave publicity is its LGBT-friendly slant. Most likely this was woven into the story in order to garter artistic and critical acclaim for its progressive storyline.
Of course, such structures historically never existed in our world. There were no native tribes or lands that are predominantly homosexual on planet Earth, so it requires quite a stretch of the imagination. Although it has always existed, especially in the Roman Empire for example, Dickenson makes it anathema in this empire and instead creates a entire culture based upon it - then makes that culture out to be some kind of utopia from the main character's viewpoint - a culture that the empire is dedicated to stamping out. No satisfying, in-depth reasons are ever given for this, only some vague "hygienic" reason but apparently plague and malnutrition are much more of a killer in these societies than anything else.
Aside from this one plot device which is woven throughout the story - the threat of discovery, the agony of hiding ones' feeling from society for fear of being ostracized and murdered - the book was not all that well written. I had trouble following and differentiating the various characters, and even following the plot. The big confrontation at the end was confusing to me as well. I just can't give this book a recommendation, especially when you consider that there are other amazing fantasy series that have gay characters that are done in a far better and more realistic portrayal, such as the Malazan series. So this book isn't that special.
I thought that this was a standalone novel, but it seems it may be part of an ongoing series. For me, there just wasn't enough there to make me want to keep going.
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