The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson | ARC

35485447Publication Date: 30 October 2018
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Paperback, ARC
Pages: 432
ISBN: 0765380749

Summary: 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.


I received an ARC at BookCon


This book has certainly been one of my most hyped of 2018. Has it lived up to the hype? For me, absolutely. However, I can see some people being disappointed by it. Since this book won’t be out for a while, I don’t want to reveal too much. As such, the format of this review will be a little different than what I usually write.

Plot: Monster starts right where Traitor ends, and we get another glimpse of That Scene with more insight. From there on, Baru begins to learn her new powers as a cryptarch, as well as the weight it comes with. Eventually, she is tasked with the prevention, or initiation, of the second Armada War. We are also introduced to fellow her cryptarchs. Southeast of Aurdwynn, Lieutenant Commander Aminata isiSegu, Baru’s navy friend from Taranoke, is rather unhappy with her current position. She’s soon given a mission that leads her right back into Baru’s path. Back in Aurdwynn, Province Admiral Juris Ormsment is cleaning up messes in Treatymont and vows revenge against Baru for the massacre at Welthony. Finally, 25 years before the current storyline on Prince Hill, we meet thirteen-year-old Tau-indi, Federal Prince of the Oriata Mbo. With each faction and members within each faction pursuing different objectives, the story begins.

Pacing: The pacing of Monster is slow and is the part I think most readers will be turned off by. Dickinson takes his time introducing characters, giving the reader insight into their motivations, and building the world they live in. While this allows for very thorough world building and character development, the trade-off is a very slow book. Roughly the first 130 pages are pure exposition, but the first clash of factions kicks off the plot with a bang. Afterward, there are long lulls between bits of action, filled with character studies, dialog, introspection, and worldbuilding. The most important thing to highlight here is that while I found the story slow, I never found it dull.

Characters: The world of Monster is not a happy one, and the characters in the book reflect that. Each character carries a lot of baggage, and given the introspective nature of the narration, a fair amount of time is spent on it. Baru is still Baru, power-hungry as ever. After the ending of Traitor, she is more hesitant and more closed than before. She’s also notably easier to anger than I remember in Traitor. However, her thirst for knowledge remains and shows visible excitement over new information. Sadly, this book didn’t showcase her financial skills as much as I would have liked, and I hope we see more in the next book.

Baru aside, my favorite character had to be Apparitor. He has a charming, rogue-ish personality (belying further suffering) that caught me from the beginning. Sadly, we get only the skeleton of his backstory. I would like to see more in the future. I found both him and his attendant Iraji very sympathetic and likable. All the characters I would wish happiness for, it would be those two.

There are seven POVs overall, though we mostly get Baru’s perspective. Dickinson does a really good job keeping each voice distinct, and even though each character is angsty, they’re all angsty in different ways. Each character felt like their own distinct, fully-fleshed character. I think that while the total character count is smaller than Traitor, they’re more diverse and spread out.

Writing: Dickinson’s prose is beautiful, as usual. Between lush worldbuilding description and emotional introspection, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotion while reading this book. I will say, I would recommend reading with a dictionary in hand. Dickinson has a large vocabulary and isn’t afraid to use it, but that left me often having to google words to get the full context. In some ways, Monster could be SAT vocab prep in fiction form. Dickinson plays with formatting to signify certain thoughts, and I didn’t realize the significance behind it until embarrassingly late.

World Building: The worldbuilding of Monster greatly expands the world introduced in Traitor. We’re given more details of Falcrest, the Stakhieczi, and the Oriati Mbo, with a focus on the Oriati Mbo. I was really astounded by how much thought had to go into creating each one of groups. The Oriati Mbo are such are a rich and complex culture, and as long as this book is, I wish I could learn more about their history. It was also nice to see so many different cultures with non-western inspirations. For those looking for a book with a non-western setting, this one has several.

I also have to commend Dickison for his exploration of gender constructs and gender roles. We see patriarchal societies, matriarchal societies, and those in-between, all very realistically portrayed. The Oriati Mbo have three genders, and we have a character who is this third gender and I was so incredibly happy to see that they used the singular they. This is the first book I’ve read that’s done this.

Overall, the worldbuilding is one of the strongest points of this series, and it’s definitely worth a re-read just to catch missed details. I was too excited about getting a copy of Monster to re-read Traitor, so there were events and characters I’d forgottenMy copy sadly did not come with a map, which would have been incredibly useful. I believe that the published version will have one. I can see where people would dislike this book because of the slow pacing, but I personally enjoyed the extra time spent in the characters’ heads.

A worthy sequel to Traitor


/r/fantasy Bingo Squares

  • Published in 2018
  • Novel Featuring a Non-Western Setting
  • Novel from the /r/fantasy LGBTQ+ Database

2 thoughts on “The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson | ARC

  1. Great review! While I loved all the intrigue and action of Traitor, the character work was what really made it so fantastic, and I’m glad to see we get more of that. I’ll definitely be rereading the first book before getting my hands on this one!


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