The Traitor Baru Cormorant

by Seth Dickinson

Rating: ★★★★

Economics, eugenics, forbidden sexuality, realpolitik and fantasy. Dickinson's world is made from all the right elements, and he blends them well in this cruel story, making it clear what will inevitably happen even while he makes you want it to go otherwise, even while he lays out the romantic hope of a fantasy world.

Baru Cormorant was an innocent child, but she saw why the traders always paid in paper and accepted local coin. She recognised when a merchant was not a merchant, and the emotionless destruction of the coming tide. You cannot fight this with a spear, or an army, or even a conspiracy. To find a way to fight it, you must know it utterly, and to do this you must give it all of yourself.

A very well-crafted story, with very few flaws (one: the victory of the rebellion seems more calculated to lull the reader than extract the traitors, the counterblow falling too swiftly to root out supporters elsewhere). I'm not sure if Dickinson plans a sequel that will reveal an answer for Baru, but the book stands alone well enough, leaving the future to speculation.