Personally, I find that the ending of a novel stays with me longer than anything else about the story. I might forget how the characters got there, but the finale will stay fresh in my mind. Of course, there are many different types of endings. Some leave you hanging on the edge of a cliff, some tie the events and characters to a close in a neat little bow, and some end leaving you wanting more. However, there is another kind of ending, one that punches you in the stomach, pulls your shirt over your head and steals your wallet.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson is one of these novels.
The book itself is a standalone novel, which in my eyes is a big selling point. Not having to shell out the money and spend endless hours to finish a story is always appreciated. Some standalone novels run the risks of feeling rushed or incomplete. This novel does not suffer from these shortcomings. The plot feels well paced and does not drag, making uses of liberal jumps in time.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is told through the eyes of one character, Baru herself. In a manner that is all too familiar and distressing to anyone knowledgeable of the ills and dangers of colonialism, we see how her character is built. I won’t go into detail here for fears of spoilers, but Dickinson develops her character to such a degree that her actions feels justified, no matter how heinous they might be.
They key feature of this novel that stands out to me is in it’s ability to build tension. Chapter to chapter it builds, driving up the reader’s anxiety for the wellbeing of the characters. In fact, the tension rose to such a level that I tore through the last third of the novel just to gain some relief.
Overall, The Traitor Baru Cormorant is a very interesting and dynamic novel that lived up to the expectations that I had before ever opening it. The characters feel fleshed out and real, the setting is interesting and deep and the story hums along at a pace that feels neither rushed nor slow. Dickinson’s writing is sharp, focused, and intelligent, much like the character that he created.
If you like dark, intense, character driven fantasy with no small amount of political intrigue, then you should consider picking up The Traitor Baru Cormorant.