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Destroying a Vast Empire From Within: The Masquerade Series by Seth Dickinson

Thursday, September 24th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Traitor-Baru-Cormorant-medium The-Monster-Baru-Cormorant-medium The Tyrant Baru Cormorant-small

Covers by Sam Weber

Whenever a fantasy trilogy wraps up, we bake at cake at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters. But what if it’s not clear if the series is complete?? In that case, a crack team of literary forensic analysts assesses whether the series is likely to continue, before we fire up the cake mixer. (I’m joking, of course. Like we’d let a tiny detail like that get in the way of cake!)

So we’re here today to celebrate the arrival of the third book in the Baru Cormorant series… pardon me, The Masquerade series by Seth Dickinson. The Tyrant Baru Cormorant arrived from Tor last month, and it wraps up the trilogy (maybe? who knows!) with a bang. At NPR Amal El-Mohtar called the first book “literally breathtaking,” and at Locus Online Paul Di Filippo labeled it “a tasty blend of C.J. Cherryh’s early planetary romances and Samuel Delany’s revisionist Nevèrÿon fantasies.” provides a handy refresher on the first two volumes if you’re the kind of person who likes to dive right into the third book in a series (i.e. a weirdo). But my favorite coverage of this series is Publishers Weekly‘s starred review of the third volume; here’s an excerpt.

The dense but brilliant third volume of Dickinson’s The Masquerade series… sees Baru Cormorant, haunted by memories of the woman she loved and lost, pushed even further into her self-destructive, all-consuming quest to save her family. In Baru’s effort to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest from within, she has risen to the position of cryptarch, part of the invisible cabal that controls the Throne from the shadows. But as Baru pretends to serve her master, Cairdine Farrier, in his attempts to conquer the empire of Oriati Mbo, she privately plots against him. Baru has discovered the secrets of the Cancrioth — a cult of cancer worshippers secretly ruling Oriati Mbo — and the plague they’ve weaponized to wipe out their enemies… This staggering installment pushes the series to new heights and expands the fascinating fantasy world.

We covered the first book here, and Unbound Worlds selected The Monster Baru Cormorant as one of the Best Releases of October 2018. The Tyrant Baru Cormorant was published by Tor Books on August 11, 2020. It is 656 pages, priced at $25.95 in hardcover, and $16.99 in digital formats. See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.


  1. First, if it turns out cake is not in order, you can always serve pie.

    Now then, I’m confused (a not infrequent sate of affairs). This article from Tor 2 years back indicates there will be FOUR books:
    Did things change in the meantime and four became three, or is some tricksy shuffling in play, or is it just time for another cup of coffee?

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - September 24, 2020 2:31 pm

  2. You’re better informed than I, RK! This is from the second paragraph of the Tor article:

    “Originally envisioned as a trilogy, Seth Dickinson’s The Masquerade—which began with The Traitor Baru Cormorant and continues this fall with The Monster Baru Cormorant—will be getting a fourth novel, completing this critically acclaimed epic fantasy saga.”

    No cake for us!! :(

    Comment by John ONeill - September 24, 2020 4:03 pm

  3. But you can have pie.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - September 25, 2020 1:10 pm

  4. I love that plan.

    Comment by John ONeill - September 25, 2020 2:22 pm

  5. ‘A tasty blend of C.J. Cherryh’s early planetary romances and Samuel Delany’s revisionist Nevèrÿon fantasies.’

    – there is no way I would get that from these covers,I’d end up shelving them in Mysteries.

    Comment by Barsoomia - September 26, 2020 11:52 am

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