Book Review: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Masquerade

Publisher: Tor (October 30, 2018)

Length: 458 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Some stories just don’t need sequels. Imagine watching Humphrey Bogart bid his heartbreakingly romantic farewell to Ingrid Bergman on the tarmac at the end of Casablanca, only to follow him to a bar afterwards to hear him whine pathetically for hours on end about second-guessing his sacrifice and beating himself up over making the worst mistake of his life. Well, that would rob all the magic out of a classic ending, wouldn’t it?

This, in a nutshell, was pretty much how I felt about The Monster Baru Cormorant. Keep in mind that its predecessor, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, was one of my favorite books in the year I read it, and it had one of the most tragic yet exquisitely poignant and tear-jerkingly beautiful endings I’ve ever read.

And then this book had to go and ruin it all for me.

But first, lest it needs to be stated explicitly, stop reading this review NOW if you have not read the first book. There WILL be spoilers for it, especially the ending, which I will be talking about, A LOT.

Monster picks up almost immediately after Traitor, at the end of which I was left speechless when imperial accountant Baru Cormorant watched the Masquerade execute the love of her life—an execution order she herself had signed. But having glimpsed into the inner workings of Baru’s mind, I knew why she had done it. Every action, every decision was carefully measured and balanced, with an eye towards final results. Even Tain Hu, the rebel duchess who came into our protagonist’s life and thawed her cold, calculating heart had, in her final moments, reconciled herself to the fact that things had to play out the way they did. It was, after all, what made the ending of the first book so incredibly damned special. Mind you, I was completely gutted, but I understood.

Which, unfortunately, is more than I could say for this sequel. The steady and purposeful Baru I knew had been replaced with an insipid, wishy-washy milksop wallowing in her self-pity. The irony, of course, is that I would have given anything to see more of this softer side of our protagonist in the first book, but as they say, be careful what you wish for, because this was nothing like what I had in mind. While I certainly did not begrudge Baru for her regrets over Tain Hu, I did become angrier at her the more she dwelled on her part in the execution. Well, that was what you wanted, wasn’t it? Least you can do is own it, damn you.

So, needless to say, this book and I got off to a rough start. But things did not get better. The series seems to have lost its direction, or has simply gotten too big for itself, because now it just feels like we’re doing things for the sake of doing them. At times, some of the things that came out of the Baru’s mouth were so random and outlandish, I did wonder if they were thrown in just for the shock factor. Diversity also seemed forced, included not because it actually mattered, but compulsory-like, as if the author felt that it was expected of him. The story itself was contrived, not to mention the sheer amount of bloat in the plot which was all over the place. Quite honestly, given how all the pieces came together so perfectly at the end of the first book, the absolute confusion and lack of direction in this sequel came as quite the shock.

Bottom line? I can’t believe what I’m about to say but here it goes: I wish I never read this book. I wish I had kept my memories of The Traitor Baru Cormorant intact, untarnished by the knowledge of everything that came after. And this is coming from someone who wept tears of pure emotion at the end of the first book. Really, the only saving grace of this sequel is Seth Dickinson’s gorgeous writing, which is as irresistibly lush and beguiling as I remember it. Despite my disastrous time with The Monster Baru Cormorant, I will still definitely seek out more from him should he start on any new projects, but no more from this series. This book broke my heart all over again but this time for very different reasons, and I just don’t know if I can take any more.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Book 1)

33 Comments on “Book Review: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson”

  1. OH NO, I’m so sorry this was such a rough read! I personally loved it but I definitely agree with you on Baru being a weaker version of Book 1 Baru. I’m hoping the later books will give her some better development. And it kinda feels like Traitor was its own separate book, and then Monster is like the start of a new trilogy set in the same universe.


  2. My condolences. I’m very sorry for your loss and I’m sure that Book 1 is at peace in Book Heaven, looking down upon you.

    Dang, in all seriousness, that really does stink. I’m happy that it didn’t turn you off of the author though and hope his next offering, in another series, can still work for you.


  3. So, would you say you had feelings about this book? 😉 . Sorry you had such a negative experience. I’ve read Traitor but hadn’t gotten to this one yet. I strangely didn’t get all the Feels from Traitor (I think Baru’s own clinical calculation distanced me a bit) so I’m curious how I’ll feel if/when I read the sequel.


    • Yeah, Baru’s a tough person to like. She’s so cold and calculating, I don’t think I could ever be friends with someone like her, but I think that was what made the ending so poignant. This one reminded me all over again why I disliked Baru, but there was no one to offset it this time around 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know if speaking of emotional pain might sound like an exaggeration, but I could feel so very clearly your sharp disillusionment for this book: there is nothing worse than going in with such high expectations, only to see them crushed so mercilessly…
    I don’t remember hearing such bitterness in your reviews, when you always find some saving grace even in less-than-satisfactory books, so that sentence about wishing you never read it sounds like an unappealable sentence… 😦


  5. Oh flip. I have this to read and I was so excited but at the same time putting off picking it up because I wanted to savour the moment. I feel like a popped balloon. Drat! Still, I’ll have different expectations now when I eventually pick this up. Thanks for readjusting my over inflated hopes. Still a damn shame though that this doesn’t live up to the first and tbh if it wasn’t a review book I’d take your advice and not read it so that No1 always remained perfect and unsullied. Lynn 😄


  6. Yikes!! I was never as in love with the first book as everyone else. I mean, it was good, but I didnt find it amazing and I think the difference between the hype for that first book and my impression of it has made me reluctant for this next one. This review? *sigh* I may never read this book now. Maybe I’ll feel better about that knowing you wish you hadn’t


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