“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. Gideon

        I just got The Traitor Baru Cormorant from Tor & have read over a couple of days. What a gem of a book.
        It’s a complex tale, of length, with many original features and super worldbuilding.
        Remarkable for a first novel: I imagine it took years to brew.
        I particularly appreciate that it is fantasy without magic.
        It reminds me (while not being derivative of) Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City, in that it has a singular protagonist with a character of flavour.
        Well done. Write more. Thank you.

  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 🙁

        2. Vee

          Just finished The Tyrant and have no idea if this site is still active, but holy cow was that an amazing book.

          I just wanted to come here and say thanks for writing a dark epic series like this with queer and trans characters written so naturally and well. I have truly hated and loved every second of the books. Baru is one of the most intricate, emotionally complicated, hateable but oh so pitiable, characters I’ve ever experienced.

          I am so looking forward to the next book. I think I saw somewhere that it may be 2 more? We can only hope lol.

          Either way, thanks for the excellent books and the representation. From a queer, trans person in the US in 2023, your books actually made me feel seen in a way I never have before in fantasy literature. Its also incredibly encouraging to see these characters continue to fight, though bloodied and torn and morally destroyed by the choices they’ve had to make. We may shamble on as cancerous half-blind monsters, but shamble we SHALL.

  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,

  6. Grace

    Hey Seth,

    Thank you so much for writing this beautiful novel. It is at the same time everything I ever wanted and everything I never want ever again because the ending destroyed me. I honestly cannot put into words how much this book meant to me just that I have been searching for something like it for so so long and you pulled it off so beautifully while also leaving a gaping hole in my heart. I just finished it and will probably be walking around in a TTBC daze for the next couple days. I loved Baru and her ambition but also underneath the fact that she still cares.

    I have one question. Is it possible that TH is still alive? Just in that we never saw a body and that maybe the Empire pulled them up at the last moment to have leverage on BC like TH said. It’s more of a plea really because I loved their character so much and they were so loyal and good. One half of me understands that it was necessary for them to die but the other half really REALLY wants them to be alive.

    Anyway thank you again for writing such a good book!

    1. Seth Post author

      I’m really glad you liked it! And thank you for letting me know. It’s a joy to hear from readers. Can’t happen enough.

      Tain Hu is gone, but her influence on the story – not just emotionally, but in terms of plans she laid after Sieroch – will remain. She’s not done saving Baru, both politically and emotionally. And she hinted at a number of things in the first book that will come into play.

  7. Ilse

    The emotional highs and lows I went through while reading this work are insane, in hindsight. It’s been a while since I got as emotionally invested in a pairing as I did in Tain Hu and Baru (that was The 100’s Clarke and Lexa, and I have a mind full of parallels between these pairings), and the final pages just about killed me, too.

    I’m not trying to rush you, but could you give a rough estimate of when the sequel might be out? 2017, 2018, later? I’m so very ready for the pain of diving one again into the too-hard choices Baru will undoubtedly have to make.

    1. Seth Post author

      Thank you for writing! It means a lot to hear from readers. I think the sequel is looking like October 2018 — I’m pretty excited, and sorry that it took so long! The rough draft is with my editor now.

      I haven’t seen The 100, but didn’t Lexa get randomly offed by a mis-aimed spear, Tara style? I’m not a big fan of arbitrary death that way.

  8. Brandon Wilhoite

    Seth, I discovered your writing through Destiny and the Books of Sorrows. I then heard your interview with Destiny Ghost Stories and finally got around to reading Baru. BoS was phenomenal, one of the best sci-fi/fantasy stories (all mediums) in 2015.

    After having read Baru, I think it’s clear you jump headstrong right into the upper ranks of my favorite authors of all time. Both works of yours I’ve read were deep with so much subtle intonation and character building through grandiose schemes and parallel tales. I love both worlds and am excited to see that you continue to work on follow ups to each.

    I look forward to encountering each of these stories and will engage them to their fullest. I am emotionally and intellectually invested into each of them.

    I write this as encouragement, not to hurry up your sequels, but so that you know you have readers who’ve been encouraged by your work. Encouraged to think deeper, longer, and about more than just what lies on the surface by your writing. Readers that will wait patiently for the work to be finished when it’s ready. Don’t feel rushed. Write out of passion for the story and characters you felt compelled to create and share with us and let their stories be truly heard; able to be studied such that philosophical ideas can be attached and taught through them.

    Thank you for these stories and these worlds and these characters. (And yes, I know the Destiny world is someone else’s that you’ve been able to help shape).

    1. Seth Post author

      Hey, thank you for your kind words, and for taking the time to write! It’s easy to get lost in the process, so it means a lot to hear from you.

  9. Marzipan Allard

    I’ve never read a more powerful and telling book than this one. Not in my wildest dreams could I have concocted a book with so much pressure and twists and seemless integration of morals, personal values, and diversity than this book has. If you have the time, please reach this book. The title does not lie.

    1. Seth Post author

      Thank you for your kind words! There are a lot of great books by great authors doing work in this space – check out NK Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, or Kai Ashante Wilson, to grab three names at near-random. But I am glad you enjoyed it, and if you’re interested please preorder the sequel coming out in October! Preorders help convince bookstores to buy my book and sell it to people.

  10. Alex

    I feel like a misinformed, incredibly idealistic and perhaps slightly ignorant individual when I write this comment. Especially considering I’ve only ever read one of your works. I’m a third year undergrad neuroscience student and thought you might enjoy these papers in consideration to Baru’s condition. I can imagine that you have read them because you seem like an informed individual on the topic based off of your book’s description of the condition. But I’d like to at least comfort myself through the suggestion of these two papers:

    on a side note, I loved the book.

    1. Seth Post author

      Thank you so much for the reference! I expect I am going to disappoint all good neuroscientists with my handling of the condition, since I take such extreme license – but these papers are going to be great inspiration.

  11. Cait

    Hi Seth,

    I left a loving if scrambled review of this novel on Goodreads (imagine my surprise upon discovering “Please Undo this Hurt” Seth Dickinson!), but because it seems like you may check the comments here, I wanted to let you know in a more direct fashion how much I loved this book.

    I listened to the audiobook (I’m a teacher, and most of what I physically read is student work; instead of feeling guilt about rarely having the time to read for pleasure anymore, I’ve made the executive decision to listen to audiobooks during my commute and to ignore those who think that doesn’t ‘count’), and while I found the narration wonderful, there were obviously a lot of names regarding whose spelling I was completely in the dark (I won’t offend you by telling you how I THOUGHT some things were spelled!). In trying to track down some kind of character/place list—which list I have, unfortunately, still not found; come on, Baru Cormorant fans, where’s the obsessive note-taking/record-keeping??—I stumbled across some of your writing about the series and have really enjoyed your commentary both on this wonderful world you’ve created and on the writing process. In particular, I want to thank you for opening up about how depression pushed back the release date of Monster.

    I won’t list everything I loved about this book. I do, after all, still have to read and grade student work today. However, please do know that I loved it very dearly and that it helped me to solidify my thoughts slash come to a realization about what exactly my own personal favorite genre/pseudogenre/classing/type/vibe/whatever of book is. Obviously, Traitor is part of that group.

    Thanks, Seth!

  12. Jack

    Hi! I know this is an absolute longshot, but I hope you are still checking this website. My partner talks about your book all the time and it’s one of his favorites— his eyes light up every time he tells me about it and it makes me so happy to see him happy. I have searched everywhere for a signed copy for a gift to him, but I haven’t found a single one. I know you said in an earlier post that you weren’t sure where to find any signed copies, but I would love to get him a signed copy as a birthday present if possible. I’d pay any cost just to see how happy it would make him!!

    1. Seth Post author

      I’d happily send a signed copy, assuming I can find a copy around my house in decent condition. Email me and I can hook you up (hopefully!)

  13. Connor McCombs

    Dude! I don’t know if you even check this any more and this definitely isn’t the place to say this and I don’t know how much creative freedom you were given over this project individually or if you worked heavily with a group, but all this withstanding – The Book of Sorrows is probably my 11th favourite literary work and I’m not even a die hard destiny fan. I come back to it constantly, especially the first half. I don’t know how much of the story you were handed but the content and presentation of that story within this book is so so cool and the way the characters are developed in small little strange lines. I love the encounter between the sisters and the leviathan and then the worms. That I could probably say is in my top 4 literary moments. If you do see this and have time to reply I would love to know some of your inspirations for the writing style and what sort of philosophy’s on light and dark destiny developers gave you and how much of the philosophies explored in the text you established your self. Feel free to email a replay if you can answer those questions but I just wanted to say that I thought that writing was awesome. Thanks!

    1. Seth Post author

      I made up most of the Darkness philosophy stuff myself, though it’s inspired by all sorts of other writing, including Use of Weapons by Iain Banks, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I was lucky to have a lot of freedom on the Books of Sorrow. I’m glad you liked them!

  14. R. Gottlieb

    My son (20 yrs) loves this series and got me into it. He’s even been making connections to some of his college course readings on imperialism, etc.. Can you recommend other authors/books for him?

    Thank you for your intricate writing.

    1. Seth Post author

      That’s cool, I’m glad to hear I could provide some intergenerational bonding! Are you looking for fiction, nonfiction, both?

      Fiction wise, there are a LOT of good novels about colonialism and imperialism, especially by non-white authors. HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is one standby. If he’s looking for a story about a powerful person navigating intrigue and wielding power, I strongly recommend WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel (who is white, and it’s not directly imperial/colonial power, but still, great book).

      1. Rahel Gottlieb

        Thank you. I’m definitely a postcolonial lit reader including Adichie, but I think he is enjoying the fantasy aspect of your writing so I’m looking for more of that.

  15. Katie

    I read all 3 of these books last year and honestly they were one of the only good things about 2020. I got Traitor as the Tor free ebook of the month, and immediately picked up the rest. They have really stuck with me. Thank you! Any idea when book 4 will come out? I need more. No pressure from me, I just want to know if I have something to look forward to in 2021 🙂

      1. Master Eridax

        You’re leaving me at low tide! I’ll be more minutes, I suppose.

        And I say this as a queer accountant trying to break the system, lol

  16. Sheridyn

    I just moments ago finished reading The Tyrant and felt compelled to reach out to you! Baru’s story has been so gripping that it’s all I’ve been able to think about since I picked up The Traitor. I’m sitting here struggling to put my respect and adoration for these books into words. All I can manage at this time is thank you for sharing with us this incredible story! Take all the time you need crafting the fourth installment. I know you’ll get it right! If it is the last, I need all the time I can get to prepare myself for the end of a tale I cherish so much.

  17. Pond

    Hi Seth!

    I just want to say thank you. The Masquerade series is has helped me find my love of reading again. I just finished Tyrant this morning and I am in awe of Baru’s complex, compelling story. These books have made me weep, laugh, and consider the systems in place in my own life with a sharper eye. I will patiently wait as long as needed for the fourth installment. Thank you for putting so much into this series, and though tiring I hope that you will continue to find the joy in writing it.

  18. Ivars Ozols

    Has anyone approached you about a possible TV series ( or movies ) ? If you are willing to talk about it/ if you are allowed to talk about it.

  19. Josh Aronovitch

    I just finished Tyrant. I started reading Traitor in the airport on the way to a retreat in Medellin, Colombia and I have not stopped thinking about this incredible story in the three weeks since. You have created something absolutely magical. The world building, the character development, I am in awe. I read like others breathe, and these are three of the best books I’ve ever read. Thank you.

    1. Seth Post author

      This is weird synchronicity – I was just at a retreat with a guy FROM Medellin! Thank you for your kind words.

  20. Sky

    Hiya Seth,

    I wanted to thank you for writing what is by far my favorite book series. I don’t have the words to express what the Masquerade means to me, so I’ll just say that I hope you’re doing well and I wish you the best. (ノ>ω<)ノ :。・:*:・゚’★,。・:*:・゚’☆

  21. Beth Barnes

    Hi Seth,

    It’s strange to say, after a year and a half of one debilitating family trauma after another, that The Masquerade series has made me feel like a human being again. Even though the books are filled with brutality and cruelty, terror and betrayal, somehow my hope remains alive for Baru and her world, and so does, I am finding, my hope for surviving my own life. I see everything differently now, on every level. My family, my friends, my community, our country, our history, our world – I’m wearing lenses I found in your books.

    I’m so grateful to the little bookshop boy who noticed me staring into space in the fantasy section of the local Barnes & Noble, and took it upon himself to recommend the series to me.

    I’m so grateful to you, for the lifeline that the books have been to me.

    All my thanks for the story that has sailed me through the darkest of times.

    1. Seth Post author

      I am sorry about your debilitating family traumas! Hold on to that hope. In times of real difficulty I give myself permission to eat huge piles of french toast and then fall asleep. My doctor says I have to stop, it’s turning my blood to syrup.

  22. Kim

    Do you happen to have an image description of Baru’s map available? The map is such a helpful reference, and a description would be helpful for blind/visually impaired people.


    1. Seth Post author

      I was going to make one because of this comment but I saw someone had done it almost instantly on Tumblr; maybe you can find one there? I agree, it would be really helpful and I’m sorry I don’t have one on my site. I am also horrible at doing things, just incompetent. So maybe it is good someone else stepped up!

  23. Shard

    Gonna be honest, I don’t really buy books, I struggle with reading without losing focus so the only way for me to enjoy books is through Audiobooks, and being poor, it’s hard to justify spending money on digital stuff, so I tend to pirate things. The Baru books though? The moment I have money I’m purchasing physical editions, and I only wish I could purchase directly from you, Seth, so you got all the money from said purchase, because these books really matter to me, and you deserve recognition and reward for putting such great works out into the world.

    You’ve written an amazing set of stories, beautifully crafted, with themes that matter, with great representation that actually speaks to me as an autistic genderqueer lesbian. I’ve read a lot of fantasy (or rather, listened to the audiobooks, but y’know) and this series, unfinished as it is, still sits at the top of everything I’ve read. Some of my other favourite fantasy writing was in Destiny, I fell in love with the series during The Taken King, and loved the worldbuilding you managed to write into the series so much, I didn’t know until I read Baru a last year that all of my favourite things about Destiny were the things you wrote, it’s a shame Bungie has taken it all in a completely different direction now.

    I’ve seen how you struggle with Impostor Syndrome and stuff, and I wanted to add my little voice saying that you’re great, as much as you might feel like your works don’t hit the mark, they are wonderful and refreshing and make me happy, and I’d happily looking forward to any new stuff you put out, be it more worldbuilding works for games, or new sicfi/fantasy novels. If you ever set up a Patreon or Ko-Fi to fund new books or short stories or any other project you’d like, I’ll be first in line to subscribe

  24. Amsel

    not only one of my favourite book series of all time but also the Traitor made me understand inflation in a way the economic bros at parties never managed

    1. Seth Post author

      I’m not 100% sure all the economics isn’t bullshit, but it serves its purpose as a ‘magic’ for the story — the fantastic conceit of an economy that is cleanly understood and can be manipulated without great confusion

  25. Sophia

    Hi Seth!

    I just finished reading Traitor for the second time.

    I have never finished a book and immediately turned back to the first page before – you are my first! I just had to go and read it again, knowing what I know, before continuing. And it was so worth it. I got so much from the re-read.

    I am absolutely itching to read two and three, but I’m saving them for my honeymoon next month!

    Thanks for this wonderful, gripping story.

  26. Malia

    Hey Seth!

    Was just looking at my Baru books earlier today and had you in my thoughts. I woke up with a slight fever today but the day has since improved. I hope there was something good about your day too.


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