Ahoy there me mateys! One of the many things I love about me large and diverse crew is the little-known fantastic treasures that they bring me way. This be one of them. I found out about the book from matey Jaime @ readwatchgame. His thoughts:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant –I just started this and I’m loving it so far. It’s about a girl who’s kingdom is colonize by a foreign empire and her determination to break the empire from within.
With an awesome title and premise, it certainly struck me fancy. So I commandeered a copy.
This geopolitical book stars an accountant, Baru Cormorant. Her kingdom has been conquered, in the name of progress (of course!), by the Empire of Masks. A young child, Baru is considered bright and precocious and is offered a place in the Empire schools. As it is with any colonization, the goal is to erase Baru’s customs, culture, and loyalties to her past and thus make her a willing tool in serving the Empire’s goals of conquest and subjugation.
But even as Baru excels in school and absorbs its mannerisms and lessons, she has a stubborn spark of hate for all that the Empire has taken in exchange for “civilizing” her. The Empire’s first test of her abilities is to place her as the accountant to another kingdom that the Empire is trying to swallow whole. The task is thankless, dangerous, and seemingly doomed to fail. But Baru is determined to control the purse strings of the country and scheme her way to success.
Writing about this book makes me appreciate it much more than after I finishing reading it. For me, Baru was admirable but impersonal and aloof. These two qualities that served her well in her task but made it hard to love her as a character. Additionally, with all the political intrigue, I did really know the true personalities or desires of any of the other characters either.
Normally this wouldn’t bother me but I always felt like an omnipresent, indifferent observer watching Baru’s tasks. While I enjoyed watching an accountant manipulate those around her, there were parts of the story that I found boring. For example, a lot of the book deals with revolution from within and siege warfare and some guerrilla tactics. It was based on the economics of political wrangling and so not a lot happens plot-wise in those sections. It was hard to keep meself occupied and interested in these parts.
To be fair, the colonization aspects were engaging. Is better food, hygiene, and medicine worth the exchange of declaring all relationships that aren’t heterosexual monogamous ones to be anathema? Is choosing to fight to the death better than losing yer culture and history? Can ye learn to live, love, and be absorbed into the society of the oppressors who use plague and pestilence as a combat tactic?
The book made me think of historical times in our own human culture where these tactics were used. The British Empire. The Roman Empire. The Ottoman Empire. The Aztec Empire. And then there are the many many ones I hadn’t heard of until I looked up this page on Wikipedia. Fascinating and kinda sad at the same time.
I will say that I found the climax and conclusion of this first book to be wonderful. So while I only found book one to be okay, I might possibility pick up book two to see what Baru gets herself into next.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.
The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free . . .
Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.
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