Book Review: Raven Stratagem (3.5 Stars)

Raven Stratagem
by Yoon Ha Lee

Published: June 13, 2017 by Solaris Books

Read: May/June 2018

2017 GoodReads Choice Nominee for Science Fiction
2018 Best Novel Hugo Finalist

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This time last year I was reading the first installment in the Machineries of Empire series called Ninefox Gambit, as part of my annual Hugo Award finalist binge reading.  I remember liking the book quite a bit, but in the intervening months I’ve nearly completely forgotten everything I read.  So, when I started reading Raven Stratagem in late May this year, again because Yoon Ha Lee’s work was nominated and became a finalist for the Best Novel Hugo Award, I almost wish I’d re-read the first book.  I spent half the book getting my head wrapped around and back in the hexarchate and calendrical warfare with a dash of good old fashioned political intrigue, botched assassinations and enough misdirection to make your head spin with remembrances.

“. . . the hexarchate was a terrible place to live, but it would be an even worse one if no one with a conscience consented to serve it.

You couldn’t pull the hexarchate apart and exchange it for something better.  The fact that the heretics always lost was proof of that.  So you had to do the next best thing, the only thing left: serve and hope that serving honorably made some small different.”

I liked this second installment, but not quite as well as I liked the first one.  Yes, it suffers a bit from middle book syndrome, but not as much as I’ve seen in other series.

“Jedao . . . began meandering around the room, taking the jeng-zai deck with him and scattering cards on every available surface like a constellation of thwarted gambles.”

As far as my voting for the Best Novel, I’ve only read one other finalist to date:  Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire, which I found somewhat disappointing last September.  Of the two, I’d probably rank Raven Stratagem higher.

“The story of the raven general who sacrificed a thousand thousand of his soldiers to build a spirit-bridge of birds to assault the heavens.”

I’m more than half-finished with Leckie’s Provenance (listening to the audiobook) and I’ll probably start Six Wakes (ebook edition) later this week.