Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee

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Publication Date: 13 June 2017
Publisher: Solaris
Format: Paperback
Pages: 355
ISBN: 1781085374

Summary: Captain Kel Cheris is possessed by a long-dead traitor general. Together they must face the rivalries of the hexarchate and a potentially devastating invasion.

When the hexarchate’s gifted young captain Kel Cheris summoned the ghost of the long-dead General Shuos Jedao to help her put down a rebellion, she didn’t reckon on his breaking free of centuries of imprisonment – and possessing her.

Even worse, the enemy Hafn are invading, and Jedao takes over General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, which was tasked with stopping them.  Only one of Khiruev’s subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, seems to be able to resist the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.

Jedao claims to be interested in defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev or Brezan trust him?  For that matter, will the hexarchate’s masters wipe out the entire fleet to destroy the rogue general?

****

(Spoiler Free) Review:

I struggled to rate this book. I really did. On one hand, there were parts I absolutely loved about this book. On the other, there were parts I thought were lacking compared to Ninefox. In the end though, none of that mattered because the ending left me shook.

It’s really hard to talk about the plot and keep this review Ninefox Gambit spoiler-free, so I’ll only refer to it in the vaguest possible terms. Instead, I’m mostly going to talk about my likes and dislikes. My biggest dislike of this book was the multi-POV take. Ninefox is told from Cheris’ perspective, with the occasional chapter opening from a to-be-dead soldier’s POV. Raven Stratagem, on the other hand, is told from multiple recurring POVs and follows multiple plot threads. As is often the case with multi-POV books, there are PoVs I found more interesting than others.

After reading an entire book reading banter between Cheris and Jedao, there was no way every new character introduced would keep my interest those two had. Several, like Mikodez and Kujen’s chapters, I really enjoyed. Others, like Khireuz, I thought were okay though that may have also been because she spent the most time interacting with Jedao. And finally, there was Brezan, who bored me to tears. Brezan is your loyal do-gooder and it takes a lot for me to really get into those kinds of characters. There were definitely times where I found myself checking who’s POV was next just to motivate me to work my way through Brezan’s chapters. On the positive side, despite juggling six or seven different POVs throughout this book, Lee does a really good job giving each of them a unique voice.

On the other hand, this book introduced me to two of my newest favorite characters: Mikodez and his brother Istradez of the Shuos branch. Mikodez has such an oddly whimsical yet cold personality, but anytime he interacts Istradez, there’s this sudden warmth I could feel as I read. The two of them also have one of the oddest yet most adorable relationships I’ve ever read.

I also really appreciate Lee for normalizing non-binary characters, trans characters, LGBTQ+ characters, and couples of all kinds/quantities in hexarchate culture. Between the Mikodez/Istradez relationship and other characters with PoVs, it added representation not often explored in science fiction. Also, a shout-out to this book for having characters that use the singular-they pronoun.

Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. I found the plot slow at times, and there were certain PoVs that didn’t grip me as much. On the other hand, I was introduced to some of my favorite characters and the ending of this book absolutely blew me away.

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