I don’t really know what happened between me and Seth Dickinson’s The Masquerade. I thoroughly enjoyed The Traitor Baru Cormorant. It had a solid concept, with a great subversion of expectations, and an original theme. I should have put the series down, brushed off my hands, and walked away. But I decided to read the next two books, and they really weren’t for me. The Monster Baru Cormorant felt like Dickinson was going to end the series after book one, but couldn’t turn down the money for a sequel. It involves a major jumpstart to the conflict, an entirely new antagonist and plot to follow, and a mostly fresh cast. Monster isn’t bad, but it lacks the elegance and eloquence of Traitor and feels like a much weaker book.
Tyrant, on the other hand, was too much effort for me to even finish.
The Tyrant Baru Cormorant, or at least the half of it I read before I threw in the towel, seems to be a book about nothing that relies on your appreciation for the previous novels to get away with not saying anything. So much time in this book is spent building to things, and it exhausts me. It took something like 20% of the book for Baru to walk across a ship and have a conversation, and this is not a short book. Nothing happens; the characters just talk about how exciting the finale is going to be when it eventually happens. It is infuriating.
Previously, when I read and enjoyed The Traitor Baru Cormorant, I (and many readers) enjoyed Dickinson’s poetic, dramatic, and eloquent prose and how he wove it into his story to create a sense of drama and gravitas. The Tyrant Baru Cormorant reads like a soap opera had a child with a thesaurus. The verbosity is off the charts, and it makes processing even the simplest conversations a huge effort. It also helps hide the fact that, as I mentioned before, nothing happens.
There is also a lot of time skipping between the past and present, which adds additional confusion and difficulty in processing what was going on. All of this combines into a book that is a lot of work to read, isn’t fun, and doesn’t feel like it has a lot to say. I found it mostly tiresome, which is a shame because I really like Traitor and recommend you go read it. Just don’t pick up the sequels if you do.
The Tyrant Baru Cormorant is disappointing, to say the least. It reads like a modern-day case study about the hubris of trying to squeeze out every last dollar of something that performed well in the marketplace. The book uses an aggressive number of words to say very little, and there are better uses of your time than to struggle through its convoluted and overly stylized pages. If you like the book, I am genuinely happy for you – please come explain its redeeming features to me. I wanted to like it very badly, and I found that I could not even finish it. Do not recommend.