Three years following the release of The Traitor Baru Cormorant Seth Dickinson has returned with a sequel. Having succeeded in her goal of joining the highest level of power in the Masquerade following her false rebellion in Aurdynn, Baru continues with her quest to destroy the Masquerade from within.
The following tropes have been found in this work:
- Ambiguously Brown: Averted with Apparitor.
- Becoming the Mask: The central theme of Baru's journey.
- Civil War: The powers behind the throne want to start a war to take control of the Oriati Mbo. The Admiralty is firmly against this and actively seek to eliminate Baru before a war can start.
- It is revealed that the M Asquerade doesn't have a standing army for this very reason. Field-General is slang for someone doomed to destruction.
- Double Consciousness: The head wound Baru took at the end of the last book somehow divided the lobes of her brain on top of everything else, and the right hemineglect-affected half now thinks it's Tain Hu. It occasionally takes over her right arm. Its presence is represented by infrequent right-justified text.
- The Ghost: The cryptarch Renascent is a sinister variant. She holds authority over the other cryptarchs, and it's her command that kicks off the plot, but nobody knows anything about her — deliberately. She disseminates false rumors about herself and "disappears" anyone who tries looking for her. Stargazer is a more standard example: the only other cryptarch whose identity remains unknown to the reader, they never appear because they're busy elsewhere and don't have a reason to show up.
- King Incognito: Dzirani reveals that the Necessary King's brother went missing in the previous book. Apparitor is almost instantly revealed to be the missing brother and Baru uses this against him
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Trim, the Oriati "magic" of human connection. Are its effects simply Contrived Coincidence, or does it genuinely affect and move peoples' fates? And what about its dark counterpart, the cancer-magic of the Cancrioth?
- Mole in Charge: Baru Cormorant, one of Falcrest's secret masters, has big plans for its downfall. When trying to gain Tau-Indi's ear, she describes herself as a deep cover agent for Taranoke. It also turns out the Priestess in the Lamplight (secret-keeper for the Aurdwynn rebellion and the lynchpin holding everyone's loyalties together) was an agent of Hesychast, meaning the rebellion was doomed from the beginning no matter how Baru handled it.
- My Greatest Failure: Failing to get Tain Hu to the Stakhieczi safely in the previous book is this for Baru.
- Mundane Fantastic: Inverted. Despite Incrastic scholars saying otherwise, the Oriati are convinced the unremarkable metal called "uranium" has uncanny magical properties. Absurd Oriati superstition claims it causes cancer, and that pregnant women exposed to it give birth to deformed monsters.
- The Man Behind the Man: The Cryptarchy is this for the throne. They, in theory, run the Masquerade. Supposedly they have an Oriati counterpart called the Cancrioth — determining the truths of their existence forms the plot of the book.
- Transparent Closet: In the previous book, Baru's homosexuality was a weapon used against her and intended to chain her to the Cryptarchy. By letting Tain Hu die, Baru is no longer trapped.
- Apparitor: In the early scenes, he draws various pictures of men and rages against Baru for letting Tain Hu die.
- War Is Hell: The very reason the admiralty is against the idea of a war with the Oriati Federation.
- We ARE Struggling Together: We finally get to witness (most of) the Imperial Throne, the secret movers of the Masquerade who arranged the plot of the previous book... and it turns out every member hates the guts of every other member. Itinerant and Hesychast hate each other utterly, Baru and Apparitor hate both of them as well as each other, Xate Yawa sneers at everyone except Hesychast, and everybody's scared of Renascent.