review of Seth Dickinson’s novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant

It was a terror particular to her, a fundamental concern—the apocalyptic possibility that the world simply did not permit plans, that it worked in chaotic and unmasterable ways, that one single stroke of fortune, one well-aimed bowshot by a man she had never met, could bring total disaster. The fear that the basic logic she used to negotiate the world was a lie.

The thing that makes this book interesting is also what makes it frustrating: the protagonist is a terrible person. Baru orchestrates an ever-growing list of atrocities designed to increase her own power, and justifies it on the grounds that when she has enough power she’ll finally be able to overthrow the evil government. This is a reckless and arrogant gamble; reality is chaotic, and becoming a mass-murderer for the sake of a distant chance at improving the system is insane, not heroic.

I may have made a mistake by listening to this as an audiobook; I couldn’t keep most of the characters straight for most of it. It’s hard to say if that’s the cause or the effect of me not feeling very invested in the middle part of the book. But the ending grabbed my attention again and hooked me into continuing to the next in the series.