The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

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From the end of my reading-log entry for this book: “How the fuck does he do it? Read it again, write in the margins. Buy your own copy.”

What can I possibly say about Seth Dickinson‘s The Traitor Baru Cormorant?

I fear my words will scare you away. This book is painful, heartfelt, and beautiful. I cannot convey the magnitude by which this book surpasses others I’ve read. You’re missing out if you do not read this. Take care of yourself when you do.

I nearly finished it on a rainy day last spring. A twinge of self-preservation made me put down the book with several chapters remaining; I somehow knew to finish it when the sun was shining and I could take time for myself.

I was right. Finishing it, I cried as the book continued to do what it had always done: grab my heart and then methodically twist it into pieces, leaving just enough for hope.

I will speak in generalities, to avoid more spoilers, but the truth is that Dickinson prepares his readers for the pain and hope of this book early on. He wrote about it here, where spoilers abound.

This book is extraordinarily compelling. It is gorgeously written. I cannot tell you how well it seized my heartstrings: how it held me hostage with love and admiration, with apprehension and that slowly approaching sense of doom.

The gradual inevitable grind is somehow leavened by the caring, heartfelt characters’ depictions, yet made infinitely worse by same—each person we come to love is in turn obliterated by chance, caprice, malice, design. Our slowly cultivated intimacy is used—so effectively!—to leave me crushed at the end.

I almost hoped there’d be no sequel. I couldn’t bear more even as I yearned for it. I feared this excellence might not continue.

Yet there is another. I am delighted and dismayed. I’ll need to set aside time to spend with heart firmly in throat when I have this next book in my hands.

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