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text 2017-10-23 00:36
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

As of page 159, I'm pretty sure I'm done with this book. I was initially interested in the idea of a fantasy book about colonialism based on economic and political domination rather than military might. And the book is neither poorly written nor boring. But it is grim and cold, and while it is hardly the darkest book I've read, nor is the protagonist's life even close to the grimmest I've encountered, it is unrelieved by either an exciting plot or interesting characters. There's no humanity to these people; the book spins us through the typical overwrought "intrigue" scenes familiar to fantasy readers, but close to halfway through the book, not a single character feels like more than his or her political motivations. Even Baru, the protagonist, feels incomplete and cold. We're meant to believe that the memory of her homeland and trio of parents is a driving motivation, but we only ever see a couple of scenes of this and they are not particularly emotional ones. And since there's not much else to her, it's very difficult to empathize.

So while I could keep reading - it's not a terrible book - this one was leaving me feeling a little down after spending time with it and lacked sufficient redeeming qualities for me to want to put up with that.

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review 2017-04-27 05:05
The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Or, The Slytherin Handbook)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

I'm clearly in the minority on this one if you look at reviews, so it was somewhat heartening to meet up with my book club and discover they also had lukewarm feelings. Here's the thing: Dickinson crafts lovely prose. Sentence for sentence he is absolutely masterful. There were passages in this book I read over and over again. But when it comes to crafting a story as a whole? I just didn't buy in.

 

I loved the beginning of this book. The early chapters, when Baru is young and we get our first sense of how the Masquerade is trampling her people, had me sucked in and thinking this book would be a favorite. And then the story picks up, moves to another location, and stays there for the remainder. The rest of the book sets up scenarios, characters, and plot points, and none of them ever grabbed ahold of me or made me care. The plot attempts to twist and turn, but for me it just knotted - it seemed overly complex, and yet at the same time predictable, which is quite the trick. The supporting characters do things that seem convenient to the plot, but ultimately make no sense to me, thus breaking some of my suspension of disbelief.

 

And through it all Baru continues to tell you how awful she is, and is true to her word at least in that respect. That might be the thing that kills this book for me the most: I can't stand Baru. I read for character, and I just did not enjoy hanging out with this person for 400 pages. (Tain Hu on the other hand was pretty great. Lord knows what she sees in Baru.) For any Potter fans, this book reads like the Slytherin handbook - how to influence people and then screw them over for your own gain...the book! It's in the title. It's right there. But somehow that didn't make reading it any more enjoyable.

 

Here's the thing, if you like books that are rooted in political wheeling and dealing this might be your cup of tea. I mean, it's about vengeance through accounting, c'mon! And if irredeemable and terrible people aren't a big turn-off you also might love this book. As for me I need someone to cheer for, and I just couldn't cheer for Baru. I concede I'm in the minority here, so your milage may vary.

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review 2017-01-31 00:00
The Traitor Baru Cormorant
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson image

Ok, so here's the thing... I almost gave up on this book a couple of times. It just seemed like it was dragging inexorably, and I didn't feel much of anything for the world the author was busy building or the characters in it... but I kept coming back to the reviews on Goodreads. Most of them were five stars, with bunches of praise. So I preserved, wanting to know why!

And boy did I find out!
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They say hindsight is 20/20, and that's certainly the case here. All that worldbuilding and character building that seemed to drag so achingly slow came together in one of the best twist endings I have EVER read! When I eventually cottoned on to what was really going on, I literally had to sit up and gape!

I can't really say much without giving away the plot, but I really, Really, REALLY hope this is a series! I need to know what happened next! And in the end Baru turned into one of my favorite characters... but I also kind of hate her...

Although the overall story deserves 5 stars, I had to remove a star for the initial drag though... surely that could have been avoided...
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review 2016-09-23 03:28
Book Review: The Traitor Baru Cormorant
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

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I think this might be one of the most important books I've ever read. Forget that "genre fiction" disclaimer, this is the real deal. I don't even know what to say. Anything I do say may be too telling.

Okay, I'll say this: this is a story we are, on some level, all familiar with. We know the history of the world. It's written by the winners, and what have the winners, the venerated winners, always done? They've dominated and pillaged in the name of civilizing, saying as they outlaw the customs and dress and language of the Celts, the Aborigines, the Native Americans, insert-a-colonized-people here, that they bring roads, medicine, law, God, correct and decent behavior, and so-on. They've changed the names of mountains, cities, continents. They've played at eugenics, taken children away from parents to be "educated" out of their own customs, culture, their own minds. They've made internment camps, death camps. They've sterilized, enslaved. I could go on.

"And her mother's answering disdain: Go, then. Learn all their secrets. Cover yourself in them. You will return with a steel mask instead of a face."

Baru is someone who grows up in a place where these things are happening, and her story is full of intrigue, rebellion, hope, devastation, love, betrayal, victory and defeat and something in between. She is a glimpse into the divided loyalties and motivations of a person forced to join 'em in order to beat 'em. Maybe. Maybe that's part of what she is, I'm not entirely sure I know. Baru makes my heart and my brain hurt if I think about her too long.

This book is about all that, but it's about so much more. I won't lie, this will knock the wind right out of you. But you won't regret it. It might change something inside of you though, the best books always do. So be prepared for that.

"I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

Let's Discuss!

What are your thoughts? Am I over-extolling the virtues here? I'd love to know if any of you had the same gut-punch feeling at the end.

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review 2016-01-02 16:41
My Christmas Present to me
Clarkesworld Issue 111 - Cassandra Khaw,Tamsyn Muir,Seth Dickinson,Cixin Liu,Neil Clarke,Sean McMullen,Walter Jon Williams

I enjoy short stories so I got myself a subscription to Clarkesworld Magazine. I started off with the December issue. I had read a few stories on their site previously but decided for $2.99/month I can treat myself to the whole thing. 

 

A short story has to grab the reader and involved them in very few words, like a comic only without the added help of art work. These issues do have a few renderings that make the feel of Science Fiction and Fantasy more pronounced. 

 

Issue #111 was decent as with most magazines you have exceptional stories and those that just fly through just so you felt you got your money's worth of reading the whole issue. 

 

Yuanyan's Bubbles by Liu Cixin was the first story and I must say I was debating on whether I wasted my $2.99, at first. The story is about bubbles, blowing them or at least the first few paragraphs and being a short story one tends to get a bit worried since the first few paragraphs are what are supposed to keep you interested before moving on. But I was not disappointed in the end. 

 

The most confusing story Morrigan in Shadow, by Seth Dickinson. Confusing but good and again I was worried I probably should have just went with buying single issues that interested me instead of committing to a monthly subscription. 

 

The best story in my opinion, which is what this is all about anyway, was Union by Tamsyn Muir. So much information into a few pages was profound. I really wish I had this talent. The use of dialog is very important in any story but short stories much more so since this is how the reader understand the characters in such a short time. Muir did an excellent job of portraying the different characters and giving us each a sense of who they are and why they are that way.

 

All in all it was a decent issue and I look forward to the next one. What better way to learn about past writers and find new ones to follow than in a format such as Clarkesworld Magazine 

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