This month’s reading assignment for Sword & Laser was “The Traitor” by Seth Dickinson of Destiny-fame. This also marked the first fantasy book I’ve read in many many years. It’s been so long, I can’t even remember which my last one was. I usually don’t enjoy medieval-ish fantasy stories but this one really surprised me.
While the author indicated that this was but the first in at least a small set of stories the tale being told here is mostly complete. At least I didn’t feel left on a cliff hanging after the last page.
The universe that was created here is quite fascinating. The focus is a huge empire going around the world conquering other cultures and forcing their way of life on them. Eugenics, imperialism, homophobia, they are all topics here. This empire (called the Empire of Masks) is explored from the point of view of Baru Cormorant (her name is also part of the title of the US edition) who gets assimilated very early in her youth but swears to conquer this huge power in order to restore the culture she came from from before the Masquerade conquered it.
Her characterisation is extremely detailed but not only hers. All major characters (and there are quite many of them) get enough room to be explored (although one or two could have seen more details). That being said, the author doesn’t shy away from just killing characters when it would make sense instead of saving them for later books. Same goes for the locations. Once the story leaves a place you know the story is completed there.
After completing the book this morning I gave it a 5/5 rating on Goodreads right away. It is not perfect but the story esp. towards the end was just too thrilling and an emotional roller-coaster ride. The whole universe including the Empire of the Mask and all other cultured around it feels very much alive. It hasn’t made me a fantasy-fan, but it increased the chances that I’ll read the next book in the series tremendously 😉