The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1) by Seth Dickinson

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“I will remake the world so that no woman will ever have to do this again.”

I’ve been sitting here, looking at a blank word document, for almost twenty minutes. I don’t even know how to possibly start a review for this book. I can honestly say that I have never read anything, in my entire life, like The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. This book was so very quiet, but it spoke so very loudly to me. But this is easily one of the best books I’ve read in my entire life.

Baru Cormorant learns from a very young age that her home will never be safe. For the first seven years of her life, she loved her home with her mother and two fathers. But that all changed the day Masquerade soldiers conquered Taranoke. This book heavily talks about colonization and how the colonizers will take everything, while expecting you to be grateful for them “liberating” the natives.

“Freedom granted by your rulers is just a chain with a little slack.”

This book also heavily talks about gender roles and sexuality. Baru is a lesbian, and it is truly her greatest fear in this world, since one of her fathers got taken away for being “unhygienic”. This is a dark book, and these are constant themes that completely are the reason Baru does the things that she does. But this was a very hard read at times, so please use caution.

Content and trigger warnings for homophobia (always in a negative light, but still very abundant throughout the story), racism, colonialism, sexism, misogynistic comments, talk of genital mutilation. torture, murder, death, animal deaths, graphic violence, loss of a loved one, inhumane conditioning treatments, off-screen rape and forced reproduction, and constant war themes. Also, a queer character does die in this book, and it hurts, a lot, so use extra caution.

But Baru plays the part that the colonizers want her to; she leaves her home, she becomes a student, she becomes a powerful accountant, she becomes what the throne wants her to be, and she never loses sight of her goals. Because Baru knows this is the only way she can truly free people from the oppressors who think they carry out their evil actions in the name of good. This is a book about a girl trying to break a seemingly unbreakable system, using the methods that her oppressors taught her, and it’s so smart, and so painful, and such a gift to the literary world.

I’ve never read a book that’s so multi-faceted before. Every page has a new angle that makes you completely reexamine the entire story. This story is so political, while also realistically depicting what war is like from the winning and losing sides, while completely putting the chaos and heartbreak at the forefront of the story. You won’t know who to trust, which is hilarious because Baru truly is a reliable narrator, but the set up just makes you not want to believe what you’re reading.

But ultimately, this is a book about power and all the terrible things people are willing to do to gain it. There are so many ways to find power and to be able to harness it for yourself. And during this entire book, we get to see Baru do everything in her power to try to carve out a substantial amount of power so that she will be able to change the world.

“This is the truth. You will know because it hurts.”

And you know from the very start, that Baru will ultimately be the villain of this story. Yet, I’ve never read a better depiction of betrayal in any form of literature before. Seth Dickinson has created something so unique, so special, and this story truly feels like a once in a lifetime series. I feel like this isn’t a book that everyone will love, but the people who do love it will love it with their entire heart and soul.

Overall, I loved this book more than any review that I could possibly write (and do this story any semblance of justice). And I am so happy that this is the book that I chose for my birthday buddy reads this year. I mean, I could have probably picked something that didn’t completely rip my heart out upon the last day of reading, but I don’t think I could have picked a more impactful book. I know this last chapter will haunt me for so long to come. I cannot wait to read The Monster Baru Cormorant this October.

And if you did buddy read this with me, thank you so much. Forever thankful for this community and for everyone who takes the time to read my reviews. I’m forever blessed to be a part of this book community, and to have friends that make it feel like it’s my birthday all year round. I love you all! You all bless me every single day. I’ll cherish this story forever and always. (And Tain Hu, Aurdwynn’s rebel duchess of Vultjag, is my only fictional crush, now and forever.) 💗

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