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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson {Just Hatched}

Just Hatched Book Feature

Just Hatched is a feature where I share my first impressions of a book after the first chapter. Check out the announcement post for more information.

I’m about a hundred pages into this well-written novel of political intrigue and simmering rebellion.  It features a strong and highly intelligent young woman, Baru Cormorant, born on a peaceful, tropical island that was conquered during her early childhood.  She studies hard at the imperial school with the intent of changing the system from within …. in direct conflict with her strong, warrior mother who believes that more direct measures will be necessary.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Traitor Baru Cormorant from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson {Just Hatched}

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
Published by Tor Books on September 15th 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 399 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman's mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.

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.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery - and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But 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.

2 Stars

How is the writing style?

The book is extremely well written and powerful.  The author evokes Baru’s emotions as she grows from a curious and precocious child through the confusion of having her island home conquered and its people subjugated to the disappointment of being sent to a marginal posting after achieving high academic standards to the determination to succeed despite the obstacles thrown her way.  The reader can readily identify with her continued paranoia as she tries to walk the thin line of a person trying to fit into a culture that is determined to wipe out the way of life that she considers normal and healthy … all the while hiding her hatred of that culture and her intention to destroy it.

General tone of the beginning

This can be a hard book to read because it is so powerfully written from Baru’s point of view.  Her easy-going island culture was wiped out using techniques employed by European expansionists to clean out Native American tribes in the growing United States, and the Imperial Republic’s programs of eugenics, cultural purification, and rooting out of sexual practices that they consider deviant are downright frightening, especially given current political debates in the so-called developed countries.

Setting, genre, etc?

This fantasy/social commentary novel is reminiscent of Brave New World and is definitely a book for adults or possibly very mature late teens.  Homosexuality is one of the great taboos in the Imperial Republic, and the “treatments” to root out such practices (and a host of other impure or unhygienic behaviors) are terrifyingly barbaric.


  1. My current read, leave me alone! (~5 stars)
  2. Reading in the near future *hides from TBR pile glare* (~4 stars)
  3. Hoping to get back to eventually (~3 stars)
  4. Probably not getting back to but someone else will like it (~2 stars)
  5. Don’t really want to push this copy on anyone else (~1 star)

Right now, this is not a book for me to read for enjoyment, but it belongs in a book club or sci-fi/fantasy course.  Like so many of the social commentary sci-fi books I read in my literature classes (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Animal House, etc.), it will make you think and probably make you feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes, we need that.

Try out the writing yourself:

Have you read this one yet? Are you inclined to check it out?

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

© 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.

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