Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Book Review: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

This is book 2, click here for my review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Pros: political intrigue, interesting characters, fantastic worldbuilding


Baru Cormorant’s actions on Aurdwynn have numerous consequences. She is now Agonist, a cryptarch, one of the secret lords of the Imperial Throne of the Imperial Republic of Falcrest. She has also made a lot of enemies, one of whom is a navy admiral, who decides to mutiny in order to bring Baru to a form of justice.

Baru believes she’s one step further towards destroying Falcrest and freeing her homeland, but cryptarch rivals Hesychest and Itinerant have a job for her and two of their other proteges.

This book picks up immediately where the previous one ended, and if you don’t remember all of the characters and subplots of the first book, I’d highly recommend giving it a quick reread. I was very happy that an issue I had with that book’s ending was dealt with pretty heavily in this one.

There are plots within plots, and two main points of view, that of Baru (told in third person) and Xate Yawa (told in first person). The switch was a bit jarring at times, but insured you didn’t mistake who’s thoughts you were observing. There are also flashbacks to a previous war from the viewpoint of Tau-indi, a prince of the Oriati Mbo, which gives cultural and historical information for the continent and for the war of ideas between the cryptarchs.

The worldbuilding is incredibly intricate. Everything is connected and the language recognizes differences from our own world - like ‘matronizingly’ instead of ’patronizingly’, because some cultures have a matriarchy as a system of rule. I loved the attention to detail.

While Baru is often - though not always - able to avoid personal consequences for her actions, once again it’s clear how she causes serious fallout in her wake, particularly with regards to trade and the economics of some of the islands she visits. Very serious consequences, for what seems like limited gains on her part. This makes her an increasingly hard character to like or sympathize with. Which I believe is the point.

A lot of the action is set-up for the next book, so the plot here feels scattered at times. Having said that, the level of intrigue is high and I never felt bored.

Be prepared to remember a lot of names and get lost in intrigue. If you like morally dubious characters, this book is for you.

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