Publisher: Tor. September 2015.
Source: Library (audiobook)
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The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They'll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she'll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery - and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.-Goodreads
I don't really know where to begin describing how good this book is and how badly you need to read it. I don't care who you are, you need this book. Even if you don't normally read fantasy, READ THIS BOOK. Because I don't normally read fantasy either. I'm not biased against it, but I just don't read it that often. This is a standalone (though apparently a sequel's being worked on, which is SO EXCITING) geopolitical fantasy about a woman named Baru Cormorant. When she's young, her home country Taranoke is invaded by The Empire of Masks/The Masquerade/a bunch of assholes who like punishing people for sins and doing weird selective breeding stuff. She grows up seeing them change her island, her mother and two fathers are split apart and punished, and she goes to school to be taught the empire's education. And she's really, really smart. But she harbors a hatred of the empire for what they've done and she wants power to save Taranoke. She's willing to work her way up through the empire to get it. Her superiors (excuse me for avoiding using names, I listened to the audiobook and have no idea how to spell anything) notice how smart she is and she's eventually sent to a far away country where she's to be the imperial accountant. It sounds like a boring job at first, but through examining the accounts, Baru unearths a conspiracy. And that's where she begins practicing exercising power and navigating the politics of a country very thoughtfully. Shit gets crazy.
So much of this book is about politics and economics that I didn't think I'd enjoy it, but it's ABSOLUTELY riveting. If you like the politics of Game of Thrones, you'll absolutely love this. Baru Cormorant is an incredible character. Sharp as hell, incredibly thoughtful, sometimes ruthless. She knows what's going on and she's willing to play any game she has to. We never know who around her she can trust. And all the while, Baru has a secret about her sexual orientation that could get her killed by the empire. You never know for sure where loyalties lie. It is so intense and so much fun. The drama is real. There are so many twists. So much gasping. I'll stop gushing now.
If you want to be entirely wrapped up in a story, enjoy complicated plots and well written characters, and are interested in stories that feature interesting gender/sexual orientation stuff, you have to check this out. The ending will blow you away. Please read this book so we can talk about it.