“The Traitor Baru Cormorant” and the Question of Realism in Fantasy


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Thanks to Game of Thrones, these days “gritty” and “realistic” fantasy are all the rage. If people aren’t swearing, having sex, and discussing their bowel movements, it’s not “realist.”

Seth Dickinson looked at this trend, turned his head, and found a way to make it cooler. “The Traitor Baru Cormorant” does describe some semi-graphic violence, but sex is almost completely absent, and explicit language rare. Instead, the book is concerned with the question of “how the world works.” How do empires rule? How are cultures changed and conquered? How can taxes and fiscal policy make and break kingdoms?

“The Traitor Baru Cormorant” is intensely realistic. It asks how, from the ground up, a rebellion can begin and end. How can people be affected. How can the world be made to turn in a particular direction. And it’s awesome.


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