Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire, #2)

By Yoon Ha Lee

Rating: 4 stars

The second book in this series starts pretty much from where the last one left off. Shuos Jedao, who has possessed the body of young captain Kel Cheris captures a Kel war-swarm and bends it to his will, with only the personnel officer Kel Brezan able to resist his influence. Brezan is immediately ejected from the swarm and vows to return to free his general, Kel Khiruev, from Jedao. Jedao, sworn enemy of the hexarchate, immediately starts using his swarm to, er, attack the hexarchate’s enemies. But what is his plan and will Khiruev and Brezan survive it?

Now that I’ve got over the, to me, very fantasy-ish idea of belief affecting the laws of physics, I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in Lee’s sequence. It’s fast-paced, we spend a lot of time inside both Khiruev and Brezan’s heads and the idea of trying to resist formation instinct and what it does to a solider is fascinating.

Another interesting facet of this book is how it makes us re-evaluate monsters. Another character we spend quite a lot of time with is Shuos Mikodez, the Shuos hexarch. This is someone who has had many people killed, both at his own hand as he rose to become hexarch, and by his people. And yet he’s painted in a moderately sympathetic way, with foibles, and as caring a lot about his family. We’ve already spent a lot of time with Jedao, someone who the hexarchate as a whole regards as a monster, and we also see some of Nirai Kujen, the undead Nirai leader who broke and recreated Jedao’s mind and who developed the FTL technology based on the high calendar that relies on ritual torture and murder to work. All these people are deeply unpleasant and yet Lee helps us to see them as people, not things. A lesson to remember in our fractured world.

So very interesting, a lot of fun and also thought-provoking. I look forward to the conclusion of the trilogy.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781085370
Publisher: Solaris
Year of publication: 2017

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