Finished it today. Debated if I should edit the first post but then decided against it. :roll eyes: Took way longer than anticipated since I decided to re-read the first novel (for the third time) again and that took longer due to real-life things.
about 4 hours ago and I thought I should write my review now, while its fresh but also while I had time to think about what I just finished.
, its certainly worth it the asking price.
I agree with both these general statements, and they are a good summary of what to expect if you read the first book.
I went into this book knowing to expect something completely different. I thought: No more Aurdwynn and dukes, no more politics in that brilliant arena of his. Instead, new and larger challenges, a larger game, a mysterious force in the east towards the mother of storms or maybe even a look into Falcrest. And I got something completely different and I think it took me 50% of the book to get on board with what was going on. If you have not already guessed it, I am starting the review with the negative point
s, to get over them as quickly as I can. Let's talk plot details: Baru is now lifted into the elusive circle behind the throne, the minds behind all of it. Armed with supposedly incredible power, held only in check by her peers of the same station (or not quite, considering the ending of the first book), she is basically sent on a "fact-finding" or scouting mission with little to no actual intel that could very well be a fool's errand. I imagined Cryptarch's to be powerful manipulators, playing the games of politics, conquering islands posing as traders, intimidating and controlling Falcrest's seemingly perfect industrial and military machinery. Instead, they are sent on super-risky missions with vague objectives
. I really took me a while to just accept that turn of events. Still, not completely over it to be fully honest, maybe its my fault reading it back-to-back. As stated, maybe we are talking about a misconception on my part here but I imagined the high-personal-risk mission type was sort of the big test. Monster
even seems to support me in that notion somewhat, considering that extended sections of flashbacks contains sections of such missions that Baru's peers had to undertake to earn their station. In short, the whole going out on a ship adventure
main plot was a though pill to swallow for me.
The other big negative thing was probably unavoidable. Since Monster
is opening the world and expanding to new POV characters, it eliminates the razor-sharp focus of Traitor
somewhat. Fully expecting that, it was certainly less of an issue for me and E's statement quoted above nicely summarizes the positives about it. I particularly liked the attempt of vastly different writing styles. With this expansion also comes a certain tendency to undermine motives of the first book, for instance Falcrest's perfectly functioning colonialist machinery. What was once a homogeneous, impersonal and utterly invincible navy now comes with mutineers and internal power struggles. A cabal of genius manipulators behind the throne are just people, some of which do not seem that gifted. As stated, this was inevitable and expected, and we are getting a lot of positives for it, but it was certainly something I loved in Traitor
I could have done without that one Ormsment POV chapter, which did not add anything and did not feel special in any way. I get that Batista might have felt it was necessary as an attempt to better establish her motivations for what she is doing but since her whole motivation is a rather simple revenge thing (apparently, at least), I am sure that a different way could have been found. Maybe as another Lindon chapter, receiving more reports? Anyway, I always disliked one-shot POV's unless its some sort of prologue where the character is abducted, killed or whatever...The good stuff:
The prose is, again, Battuta-brilliant. It will obviously be different from Traitor
and that was already evident in that book's last chapter. Liked it a lot and it got me hooked, as usual. The words are, again, chosen carefully and adeptly and form a well-flowing text that draws the reader in.
The world building is excellent again, it almost never feels forced, interesting little and utterly unimportant details are mixed with larger, general ones and a sense of place and wonder is quickly instilled in the lands of the Ashen Sea. The sense of people and philosophy is nicely realized and I like how different most of it remains from the standard fantasy stuff. Aurdwynn and its dukes were medieval-like, a known quantity. Monster
embraces the weird that was hinted at before and does so in a believable fashion, mixing at times seemingly contradictory things (like religiously caring for others while having an instituted form of mocking them as a way of spreading news) together into a really interesting cocktail. I loved it, with all its ambiguities and issues-that-are-no-issues and weird ideas. It is hard to describe to be honest and that is a very good thing. More POVs, as well as the ship traveling thing, obviously allows for a vast scope regarding these aspects.
I loved the Cancer-Cabal idea, the immortata. A disgustingly brilliant idea and in the book's acknowledgments, Batista makes it quite clear that my choice of adverb here might be in itself an issue. If it turned out to be nonsense, a desperate explanation of Falcrest's secret cabal incapable of understanding how something could endure without strong control, I would have been satisfied as well. But apparently, it is not
so let's see where that goes.
The Farrier-process, although I am still not entirely sure what it is, sounds like a cool thing as well. Another angle of attack, another wall of questions on what has been engineered
for Baru. Liked how Aminata, Shir and others are basically part of it. The motive of Nietzsche's And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you
, of Baru as a perfect tool of the Empire, is maintained in an unexpected and clever way. Obviously, repeating the steps of Traitor
would be both boring and impossible and since Baru is a Monster
now, that motive can be supported by "internal" means now. I liked it, both in the way Battuta played with the font and the eventual revelation.
Tain Hu's presence in the book remains strong, which was rather unexpected for me. I thought that most if it made sense and did not felt forced, both in Baru's supporters and Baru's internal struggles. Good job on balancing that. Found the end to be perfectly acceptable. While not ending anything related to Baru's personal arc, the whole book feels like a journey, an intermediate step, a setup anyway. And since that setup is now complete, it was fine to end it there
.The weird stuff:
I did not really get the Iraj-character to be fully honest but I suspect that is part of the plan. Does he actually like his lover? Probably, but I am not sure. More central, what are his hopes (we certainly know his fears) for the future, what does he truly wish for?
Tain Shir came out of the blue and, as the book makes it obvious to the reader, she does not.
Another thing that took me off guard, that is for sure. She has this other-wordly attitude and that is the point, another monster made by Farrier. I am sensing some interesting revelations for book 3 there.
The shift in Baru's expression of sexuality was a hard one. One of the things I loved in Traitor
was how suppressed even the writing was on that subject, perfectly mirroring the character. All of that is gone, however Baru is obviously at a different point now. It is a known fact now to most of the people around her, and she feels somewhat safe. She had sex, she liked it. And, of course, she is utterly broken as a person, constantly drunk and on the verge of complete loss of control. In the end, this was never something that bothered me enough to be on the negative list, however I did want to mention it.
before, a book that I found so utterly perfect, a book that felt like it was written
me and had all the elements I liked in my stories and absolutely nothing else.
was not written for me. But so were many other great books I really like. Eagerly awaiting the next one