This is the story of Agonist. Baru Cormorant as a cryptarch: secret lord of the Imperial Throne.
Baru Cormormant’s world was shattered by the Empire of Masks. To exact her revenge, she has clawed her way up razor-edged rungs of betrayal, sacrifice, and compromise, becoming the very thing she seeks to destroy. Now she strides in the Masquerade’s halls of power. To save the world, she must tear it asunder…and with it, all that remains of her soul.
Read my review of the first book in this series, The Traitor Baru Cormorant.
* * *
3 / 5
I adored The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Several months on, that book has still stuck with me and I’ve been recommending it all over the place. If someone asks me, “read anything good lately?”, they ain’t gonna get me to stop talking for the next fifteen minutes as I tell them about Baru Cormorant, light of my life. The Monster Baru Cormorant is still beautifully written, lyrical and immersive, but suffers from middle book syndrome so bad.
Baru needed a sword for a spine, so that if she ever bent from her purpose, she’d be cut
We pick up where we left off, with my beloved Baru and her lover Tain Hu. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t finished The Traitor yet, but be assured it dashed my heart upon the rocks. Baru has sacrificed everything to claw her way up the rings of the ladder. And now here she stands, proud and broken and glorious, wearing a mask of the Empire, waiting to betray it. Now part of their inner circle, Baru sets sail from Aurdwynn and embarks on a new task, to unearth treachery and secrets at the edges of the Masquerade.
I’ll start with the good. What did I love? I loved Baru, broken and sharp to touch. Baru, who knows what she wants and for whom no price is too high. Baru, who terrifies the Masquerade because now they have no hold over her. Baru, Baru, Baru. She is at the heart of this series and she is glorious. Also, the prose. Like the first book, The Monster is deliciously quotable and there are so many more I could have included in my review. Third, the variety of characters and cultures. Dickinson writes diversely, deftly crafting different kinds of societies and lifestyles that are so very distinct, and don’t feel like direct ‘reskins’ of European cultures.
“Oh,” Baru said, as the world creased around her, a mark in the page, before this moment and after
However, this book definitely suffers from middle book syndrome. By that I mean that the author knew how he wanted to start (the first book), and knows where he wants to end (the last book), and the middle book is acting as a bridge between the explosive start and the, doubtless, firecracker of an ending. There is a big arc set up involving the cult of the Cancrioth that had so much promise to be weird and wonderful, but it was never really wrapped up. The plot got cut short too early as the author sacrificed closure for a cliffhanger of an ending.
The Monster Baru Cormorant is a great book. It is enjoyable and complex and has Baru has made my top ten characters list. But it is also slow and plodding and it didn’t satisfy me as a reader in the same way that the first did.
My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of The Monster Baru Cormorant.