“A beautiful, perfectly formed crystal of a novel…” — John Chu

“…an amazing epic fantasy…I consider it an instant classic.” — Tiemen Zwaan

Baru Cormorant wants to understand the world.

“An extraordinary debut—powerful, complex, and passionate.” — Kij Johnson

“Storytelling that succeeds on both an epic and a powerfully intimate scale…” —Sunny Moraine

Her mother Pinion knows the hunt and the stars. Her father Solit knows the smithy and the telescope. Her father Salm knows how to kill, and why no one ever should. She loves them more than anything. She loves her home, island Taranoke, the warm place at the center of the world.

“Smart. Brutal. Gut-wrenching. You’ll be captivated from the very first page. Dickinson is a sly, masterful writer who pulls no punches. Get ready to have your heart ripped out through your throat.” — Kameron Hurley

“…a poet’s Dune, a brutal tale of empire, rebellion, fealty, and high finance that moves like a rocket and burns twice as hot. The Traitor Baru Cormorant is a mic drop for epic fantasy.”   —Max Gladstone

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru will look up from the sand and see red sails on the horizon.


The Masquerade is coming. Armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. Their secrets are the secrets of empire and Baru will claim them at any cost. She’ll join the Masquerade. She’ll prove herself a savant at the exercise of power. She’ll be exactly what they need.

Will it hurt? Certainly. Will it ask too much of her? Of course. But she’ll complete her work: finding a way to the top. She’ll do it for her home. Her family. Her freedom.

Baru knows she can save her world. All she needs is a little more power to do it.

Baru’s World

People need things. Water and shelter. Cloth and sewer. A chance to heal, a story to tell, a dream to realize. A law that puts tomorrow’s weakest above the powers of today.

People build society to meet those needs. Civilizations brick themselves out of the floodplain and sweep down off the high west steppe. In turn they have needs of their own. Stability. Deterrence. Record-keeping, revolt-breaking, a plan for the next drought, an answer to the shapes in the dark and the mutineers in the slum.  They grapple with the world a while and then they fall apart.

A time of hope. A time of prosperity. A mistake! A setback! A chain of collapses. Again and again.

The cycle has to end. The civilization game can be solved. Together we propose a solution.

— Handbook of Manumission

Civilization thrives on the Ashen Sea.

Sail south and harbor in Oriati Mbo: four great nations bound together by philosophy and history, singing the story of a millennium of joyful change. Sail west to nameless lands where the Tu Maia once ruled, the wave of their expansion broken now, their story still alive in the epics of their dandelion-scattered descendants. Sail north to Aurdwynn, land of olive and redwood, wolf and Duke, where the Tu Maia met the pale Stakhieczi masons in a crash of cavalry and phalanx. That story has a few shapes, depending who you ask.

Or you might stay home, on Taranoke, a little bit southwest of the middle of everything. There’s a warm wind on the beach, and kelp to gather. You can burn the kelp for ash. You can make the ash into glass. If you had a nice telescope, you could watch the stars. There must be stories up there.

Of course, you might sail east, over the burnt hulks and seared bones of Oriati fleets. Sail east to Falcrest, the Antler and the Qualm, Old King Poison. Have you heard the news? The old dynasty is ended. Something young and eager rises from the blood of kings. In Falcrest they say —

Civilization clings to the Ashen Sea. Civilization isn’t a story. It’s a fragile, desperate thing, a machine of erratic and tenuous make. And when it falls again, as fall it will, the cost will be appalling.

So we have come to repair it.


Baru traced the facts of stone and water that boxed Aurdwynn, made it small and desirable and impossible to escape – an arena, a cage, a pulpit. Empires had grappled and died here.

Exhilaration rose in her: here, before her, a problem of power, a riddle of empire. A chance to show her worth to Cairdine Farrier, whoever he really was, whatever great designs he hinted at.

What a cauldron. What a trap.

These are Baru’s notes on the geography and politics of Aurdwynn.

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  1. Tessa

    Rarely do I give five stars on Good Reads. Even rarer do I give five stars to a book which
    -I yelled at;
    -I hate viscerally;
    -I I morally disagree with.

    But. I did. To The Traitor Baru Cormorant. And I plan to read the sequel.

  2. Ceallaigh

    I write, and I read this novel with appreciation for its prose and an underlying frustration I couldn’t quite place. But it’s been well over a week since I finished it, and my mind returns again and again to that moment on the rocks, before the waves, at the end. This was masterful work, and I look forward to what you’ll offer us next.

    1. Seth Post author

      With this book I chose to put a lot of emphasis on pace and imagery. And I think…I often feel like there’s kind of a barrier, a discipline, walling off the characters from the reader. Maybe that’s the frustration? It fits Baru’s arc here, but part of the reason I’m taking so damn long on the next book is that I really want to crack that barrier.

  3. Jordan H.

    Goddamnit Seth, I truly thought I was prepared for the for the ending of this book.

    A deal was made, gears were set in motion, and all signs pointed towards the logical conclusion of that unwavering, unforgiving arc. And much like Baru herself, I was wrong. I am still reeling emotionally from that last scene, mulling it over and over in my head, not because I feel I missed some important clue, but because I instead absorbed it all a bit too much. I have never felt so compassionate for and yet revolted by one single character and the choices she must make. You have done the nearly impossible, you have made me love a monster, not by glorifying her power and cruelty, but by peeling back the mask and revealing the many shades of gray that coexist inside her. The emotional trappings, hidden truths, and core ambitions that drive her ever, indomitably, forward.

    I tip my hat to you, sir, and look forward to more.

    1. Seth Post author

      Thank you! I’m really glad the work connected. I hope I can pull that level of quality off again!

      1. Jordan H.

        I’m not worried, you obviously have well-honed knack for story-telling and world-building, and with a protagonist like Baru, the world is your (her) oyster.

        On that note, any timeline for the sequel’s release or still to early to say? I hope it’s not too far off, I can already feel the post-book withdrawal symptoms setting in. 🙂

        1. Seth Post author

          Hahahaahahahhhaaaaaa. It was supposed to be out in just a couple months, this fall. I’m shooting for Fall 2017. I’ve been a wee bit depressed and down on my writing, and I just haven’t been able to get a draft I like. I’ve tossed out 700,000 words at this point 🙁

  4. Anna

    I love this book so much that this is the first time in a while where I looked up the author so I can see if there was any more work. This is definitely one of my top favorites of all times, thank you for putting your time and effort and talent to create such a beautiful and raw read:)

  5. Bjorn

    Hey Seth,

    Long time fan of your writing for Blue Planet here, and more recently, House of the Dying Sun/Enemy Starfighter. After reading your shorts for BP on Clarkesworld I dove into Baru and was instantly entranced.

    I do notice parallels in your writing between Baru and Blue Planet (including the Morrigan shorts)… I do hope the conclusion of War In Heaven is every bit as stunning as that of The Traitor Baru Cormorant…

    Best wishes,


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