The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

“The book under our gaze today is even more jam packed with action, reveals, reversals, and Machiavellian plots and counterplots, but it moves rather more linearly and stepwise towards a truly fine and resonant and surprising climax, one which, not to give too much away, revolves around, of all anti-swashbuckling maneuvers, a stock-market scheme. Thus does Dickinson remain true to the first book’s original presentation of Baru as Stealth Accountant.

Before we get there, Baru and company will have to traverse infinite perils, which include but are not limited to keelhauling, lobotomies, meningitis, a pandemic deliberately unleashed on the island of Kypranoke, with microbes whose source species is bats (timely indeed!), naval battles, swordfights, drug dreams, and more. Baru gets a reunion with her parents, for whom she has been doing all this, and it proves less than ideal. Her neurological deficit is shown to be a surprising and even touching survival adaptation. She reconciles with enemies and falls out with friends. The Cancrioth, a creepy, sorcerous biopunk cabal of sorts, venture out of hiding to become a force on the chessboard. And after rough times afield, Baru finds even more deadly, albeit superficially genteel challenges in the imperial city of Falcrest.


Dickinson can construct a five-page fight scene that never falters, and then turn around and describe that emotionally charged parental reunion with some tenderness. He tops himself with a vision that Baru has towards the end of the book, after all the dust has settled and she’s achieved a mixed victory: she sees the future she’s ensured as a kind of glittering utopian reward for all the suffering people of the Empire. But will it come to pass, given the mystery embedded in a small coda that posits more challenges just ahead?” — Locus