Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
Publishing date: 15 June 2017
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review will contain some spoilers for Ninefox Gambit, but not for Raven Stratagem.
War. Heresy. Madness.
Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies and resurrected by the hexarchate to put down a heretical insurrection, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.
Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh incursion by the enemy Hafn, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, appears able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.
The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev – or Brezan – trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?*
I recently read and reviewed Ninefox Gambit, the first in the Machineries of Empire trilogy. It had been getting great press, was nominated for some of the top honours in science fiction, and has a stunning cover. I picked it up despite it not being my usual taste in sci-fi — I’m more of a space opera reader and struggle to wrap my head around some of the mathematical and engineering concepts in heavier sci-fi books. I ended up unexpectedly loving Ninefox Gambit, but couldn’t say the same for its sequel, Raven Stratagem. It lacked what I loved from the previous book, leaving only the things I struggled with most — I ended up DNF-ing it at around 30%.
I really loved the dynamic between Cheris and Jedao, however that tension and interplay is completely gone in Raven Stratagem. Cheris is, at least at the point I got to, no longer a character in the story. Jedao has taken her form and we no longer get her perspective, which is such a shame. Nor do we get Jedao’s perspective — all his actions are seen through the eyes of newly-introduced characters who are interacting with him for the first time. While this is similar to how the first book is plotted out, no one is nearly as fascinating a character as Kel Cheris. For me, the wonderful characterization of Cheris and her struggle to complete her mission and work with Jedao balanced Ninefox Gambit‘s difficult technologies and concepts, making the book difficult but readable.
If you enjoyed Ninefox Gambit as a whole, you’re going to love Raven Stratagem. It picks up right where Ninefox leaves off and the tension does not let up. There’s more political underhandedness, epic space battles, and wonderous and confounding technologies. I may pick this one up again another day, but I really struggled without the wonderful characterization seen in the first book.
Have you read Ninefox Gambit or Raven Stratagem? Did you have the same issues I did? Let me know what you think!
*Copy courtesy of Goodreads