“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.
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.