Seth Dickinson’s debut novel, The Traitor (published as The Traitor Baru Cormorant in the US) is a smart, brutal, multilayered fantasy novel which manages to subvert your expectations every step of the way.
The story centres around Baru Cormorant, an intensely intelligent, witty and perceptive female character as she is transformed from an innocent little girl into a ruthless tool to be wielded by her country’s conquerors. It’s this transformation and the turmoil she undergoes, both physically and emotionally that makes Baru such an engaging character. From the start she has to make ruthless choices in order to bring her vow of vengeance - to fight the Empire from within - to fruition. But betraying the Empire also means that she has to betray herself and her very nature. What happens when you can’t separate yourself from the mask you wear?
“It’s not what the Masquerade does to you that you should fear...
It’s what the Masquerade convinces you to do to yourself.” (page 187)
The Traitor is beautifully written with superb world building and characterisation that truly shines. The world is filled with complex, engaging characters that will crawl into your heart and leave you an emotional wreck by the end. While the pacing is slow initially, it ramps up steadily as events draw to a head. And it’s with the breathtaking finale when all the political intrigue, the betrayals and machinations come full circle that The Traitor will blow you away.
Even after being forewarned the ending is a brutal punch to the gut which will leave you shell-shocked and emotionally drained. Not many novels can manage to surprise you even when you are fully expecting the twist, but Dickinson manages to do just that in the most harrowing way.
I can’t wait to see what the next instalment has to offer; it’s going to be tough to top this. But first I think I might need a year or two to recover . . .
The Traitor is a smart, brutal, multilayered fantasy novel filled with political intrigue and complex, engaging characters. The ending is brutal and harrowing in the best possible way. If you are looking for a fantasy novel that offers something different from the norm, then this is most definitely it. Highly recommended!
The Rating: 8/10 (Great)
Thanks to Eileen from Pan Macmillan S.A. for providing the review copy.