Download The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

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Those attuned to the author’s singular methods will rejoice. Otherwise, this is demanding and ultimately overwhelming.

Third part of a doorstopper epic fantasy in which a woman seeks revenge against an evil and insatiable empire.

In the first book, The Traitor Baru Cormorant (2015), we learned the reasons why Baru Cormorant seeks to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest and something of the depth and nuance of her plan. Book 2, The Monster Baru Cormorant (2018), exposed new vistas, churned bravely, and accumulated flab. Book 3 succumbs to bloat while setting up a sequel. Once, Baru was a protégé of the cryptarch Cairdine Farrier, one of the secret powers running the empire. Now a cryptarch herself, she realizes that he’s been subtly controlling her from Day 1. Under his orders, she’s sought out the Cancrioth, a people ruled by immortal tumors in human form, in order to use them as a weapon. The Cancrioth are concealing the Kettling, a hemorrhagic plague that could kill hundreds of millions. Baru undoubtedly could unleash the plague and destroy Falcrest, but millions of innocents would die too. Another way to achieve her goal would require more devious tactics but run the risk of Falcrest’s becoming the world’s supreme power. To implement either strategy, Baru must first survive murderous threats from allies and enemies alike. As before, the storytelling is intense, deftly handled, ingenious, and often absorbing. Dickinson is, however, a writer blessed with an exceptionally fertile imagination who can’t resist packing in everything—to the point where needless overcomplication all but sinks a narrative heavy with plot threads, timelines, gore, torture, conspiracies, violence, intrigue, and war. Less would have been far more digestible. The book does work impressively well as an allegory about modern politics, economics, and global power projection (mark the eerie though entirely coincidental thread about the Kettling). Yet the final confrontation, building through three enormously long, dense, involved books, doesn’t actually come off—as drama or as catharsis.

Those attuned to the author’s singular methods will rejoice. Otherwise, this is demanding and ultimately overwhelming.

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