But the Cancrioth's weapon cannot distinguish the guilty from the innocent. If it escapes quarantine, the ancient hemorrhagic plague called the Kettling will kill hundreds of millions...not just in Falcrest, but all across the world. History will end in a black bloodstain.
Is that justice? Is this really what Tain Hu hoped for when she sacrificed herself?
Baru's enemies close in from all sides. Baru's own mind teeters on the edge of madness or shattering revelation. Now she must choose between genocidal revenge and a far more difficult path—a conspiracy of judges, kings, spies and immortals, puppeteering the world's riches and two great wars in a gambit for the ultimate prize.
If Baru had absolute power over the Imperial Republic, she could force Falcrest to abandon its colonies and make right its crimes.
This is the third book in the Masquerade series, with a 4th book on the way. If you haven’t read the previous two books recently, it’s worth doing a reread as there’s so much nuance that you’ll be lost if you don’t remember the details of all that’s happened.
The book is told from several points of view including: Baru, Xate Yawa, Aminata, and Svir. There are scenes set in the ‘now’, contrasted with a direct continuation of the events from book 2 as well as scenes set 23 years prior, continuing Tau-indi’s story of when Cosgrad and Farrier stayed with the Mbo princes.
It’s not a quick read. There’s so much going on and so much nuance that I often had to stop to process what the characters were doing and what that might mean for their future. It’s easy to fall into Baru’s trap of forgetting there are other players on the board when she acts. Each time I assumed things would go the way she’d foreseen because she’s a savant, but everyone in the story has their own motivations and few align with hers, so there’s generally a mess of consequences you don’t expect.
It’s a book filled with hard truths about colonialism, racism, sexism, and what people and nations will do to gain power over others, and what they’ll do to keep that power. As such, it’s very thought provoking, forcing you to see people and ideas from varied perspectives. In several instances the author uses reversed language to get these ideas across, so ’matronize’ instead of ‘patronize’, ‘anti-mannist’ instead of ‘feminist’, etc.
I was surprised that I still found Baru a sympathetic and likeable character after all she’s done. I still want her to succeed. With all the horrors going on (and there are a lot of them) there’s still a sense of hope to the story, that in the end things just might work out the way Baru wants. I even started to like Yawa, which was kind of a shock given her previous actions. I really enjoyed seeing Tau-indi’s growth, overcoming what happened to them at the end of the last book. It felt like the various characters were all growing as people, learning more about the world and themselves and really taking a look a the world they were making and deciding if their choices had helped or not.
While this isn’t the series end, this book does tie up several plot threads into a satisfying climax. I can’t wait for the final book to wrap up all the remaining loose ends.