cover image The Traitor Baru Cormorant

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Seth Dickinson. Tor, $25.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8072-2

Dickinson’s debut, the start of a trilogy set in an impressively well-crafted fantasy world, is assured and impressive. After the island nation of Taranoke is conquered by the far-flung Empire of Masks, its culture and traditions are suppressed in favor of the empire’s rigid structure. Baru Cormorant, a young native woman, vows to do whatever it takes to rise to power within the so-called Masquerade so that she might someday free her people. At school, Baru is dubbed a savant; when she’s 18, she’s appointed to serve as Imperial Accountant for one of the Empire’s most troublesome regions, the country of Aurdwynn. There, Baru engages in a dangerous economic game against the empire and the quarrelsome dukes of Aurdwynn, always keeping to her own agenda while repressing her innermost longings, including her desires for other women. When her manipulations force the dukes into all-out revolution, she must pick a side and risk everything. Readers will share every one of Baru’s strong, suppressed emotions. Dickinson’s worldbuilding is ambitious and his language deviously subtle; both are seductive in their complexity. He combines social engineering, economic trickery, and coldhearted pseudoscientific theories to weave a compelling, utterly surprising narrative that keeps readers guessing until the end. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Sept.)