Mini Review: ‘Raven Stratagem’ by Yoon Ha Lee

As a debut Ninefox Gambit couldn’t have been much better. Dropping the reader right into a complex world without any type of cheat sheet it managed to combine some first class world building with a tight and focused story. Kel Cheris, with the insane undead general Shuos Jedao in her mind, faced off against the heresy threatening the Hexarchate while at the same time being one of the main threats to the Hexarchate. It was my favorite kind of sci-fi, full of big alien ideas and smart enough to pull it off.

Raven Stratagem had a lot to live up to but a major advantage at the start over Ninefox Gambit; all that complex world building has already been laid out. So when Jedao shows up this time we already expect the unexpected. He takes advantage of the Kel Calendar system to take over a small force and then proceeds to threaten the destruction of the entire Hexarchate while seemingly working towards it’s goals. Lee is a master of keeping readers guessing without cheating to make surprises work. By the end of Raven Statagem I was once again in a trance; willing to go wherever the author wanted and completely enthralled with every twist and turn.

This series sits in a place somewhat hard to explain. It feels like hard sci-fi as it explains away magic with incomprehensible science. It is action packed and witty but absolutely not a ‘beach read’ as it takes a keen eye to catch every detail. Follow up books are not always successful as they either try to repeat the success of the first or stray too far from it. Lee weaves the line perfectly, building on the culture created in Ninefox Gambit while taking the story to a whole new place. And while it ends on something of a cliffhanger is its one I suspect most readers will gladly stick around for.

4 Stars

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