The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson is the first book in The Masquerade trilogy set. I’ll admit that this is my second run at the book having dropped it in the very beginning on my first go around. I wanted something smart with a political backdrop and this book was recommended by numerous readers and so I thought to give it a second chance. Well, this is yet another one of those books that I’m not too sure what to really make of it. There were some good parts but on the whole, I just couldn’t connect with anyone or anything in this story at all. It is rare for me to feel that after having read through an entire book and yet here I am. I’m not entirely sure if it is due to the writing, the plot, characters or just a combination of them all but I literally feel nothing. This is oddly strange being how the story itself seems to want the opposite.
“Could power be real if someone else gave it to you?” – Baru Cormorant
There are quite a lot of themes to explore in this first book to set up the series going forward. You’ve got things such as colonization, homosexuality, revenge, rebellion and the good ol’ plotting and scheming. At the heart of it all is Baru Comorant. As a young girl, she is trained that her people’s previous way of life and culture is wrong and that the empire is out to correct those mistakes. The occupation and take over of her island is intended to turn them into loyal and faithful subjects of the empire which of course is done for their own good. Baru of course has plans of her own and so starts her journey of plotting and scheming of striking back and getting revenge for her people.
The biggest problem I had is not feeling any sort of attachment to Baru’s plight and tribulations. I had almost zero emotional attachment to the main protagonist and that is almost never any good. I would have liked to at least feel somehow attached or to root for a side character if not for the main but once again, it seems as if the author doesn’t know how to accomplish this. I literally couldn’t care less about what happened to any one of them at any given time. They could live, die, get betrayed, do the betraying or whatever else and I probably wouldn’t bat an eye. That’s how sad this was in regards to all the characters.
“Because I think you’ve realized that who you are will forever hold you back from what you deserve.” – Tain Hu
The story itself I’d consider somewhat a saving grace otherwise I would have had to permanently put this book into my “did not finish” category. While not terribly complex, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. You really need to pay attention to certain things and the author can sometimes make that harder than necessary. One thing I do give the author credit for is that the ending really did blindside me. I honestly couldn’t see that coming. Now, whether I was already too numb at the point to care or not is a moot point. It was clever and I liked it.
Unfortunately, I won’t be continuing with this series. The mediocre writing and lack of interests for any single one of the characters is not something I think that could be remedied going forward. It’s a shame really as I saw big potential here. This is actually something that if given over to a different author I think would have been much different.