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The Tyrant Baru Cormorant Reading Notes Act Two in Progress

Posted on the 01 September 2020 by Cathy Leaves @cathyleaves


This second act of the third book did something peculiar - taking a story that has been dark and sad for so long and somehow changing course entirely, and all of that through a small moment of connection between two unlikely characters. I still can't see where Baru will go - not in this novel, or the final fourth one - but something about this act so far has changed the whole feeling of the story for me. 

What happens is that Xate Yawa is about to lobotomise Baru, explaining the process that she has perfected over many test subjects. But then Baru does what she has done before - her two eyes act autonomously from each other, in a way that may induce a seizure, and make a lobotomy impossible. Last time that happened was when Yawa had poisoned Baru deliberately, but it is only now that she puts the pieces together, and questions Baru's right side - the blind side, the unlikely ipsiliteral blindness (because normally, blindness would occur on the opposite side of the wound). She has such plans for Baru: to take her revenge on her, to give her to the Necessary King as dowry, to make the marriage between him and Heingyl Ri possible, which will save Aurdwynn from Falcrest. But instead, she realises that Baru has something that the Ilykari priests called an erye, a second soul within her body. And this soul is.. Tain Hu, who has been, for the last few months, working on her own agenda. Baru, in her grief over the loss of her beloved, has recreated her inside her own mind, with Tain's values, Tain's beliefs. "Through study and obsession you have built inside yourself the soul of Tain Hu".

Surprisingly, this keep Xate Yawa from going through with the lobotomy. Instead, she and Baru share a moment of connection and truth, where they both admit to each other that all of their actions have been for the freedom of their respective homelands. It is a complete turn from where Baru was at the end of Act 1, believing herself to be a perfect example of the self-governing subject, someone who could never trust any of her own instincts because she was so fully owned by Farrier. Instead, because she has created Tain Hu, she can not only believe in herself again, but also in these secret plans that have been in progress this whole time. She becomes Barhu - her name has always contained Hu's. And so, Xate Yawa becomes an ally. 

This sets in motion and out-of-this-world insane plan to save everyone. Baru fake-surrenders as Aminata's and Apparitor's hostage to the Sulane and Juris Ormsment, who has her keelhauled - something that would surely kill her, if she hadn't in her entourage one lovely and dedicated diver (earlier, they make out in front of Aminata, who takes interested but distant notice). Ulyu Xe rescues Baru and takes her to Apparitor's Helbride. The plan is for Aminata to use the Uranium lantern that Baru took from the Eternal and signal through the location of all the navy's mines, so that the monster ship can safely escape - and then Aminata would leave, with or without having killed Ormsment. It takes a long conversation between the two friends to get there, with Aminata trying to figure out if Baru is good, and where exactly her duty lies - what it means to follow wrong leaders, and wrong commands. Aminata has every intention to follow Baru to safety, but then she sees a young sailor on board, and realises she cannot leave these people behind. 
It all ties in with Baru's realisation about Juris Ormsment beloved riddle about the three ministers: The answer to the riddle lies outside its own parameters. 
"Power can’t be separated from its history. A choice can’t be taken in isolation from its context. Power is the ability to set the terms of the riddle. To arrange the rewards and punishments by which the choice is judged.”
The question is - who placed the players on the board? Who put the poison there? Falcrest is absent in the riddle, and yet present within the context, and the same is true everywhere else as well. It's a sad realisation to come to when she sees Aminata so willing to sacrifice herself - a position that she has manoeuvred her into. Because once Galganath the whale uses one of the navy's own mines against the Sulane, all hell breaks loose. 
Other things: 
  • In a horrible revelation about 25 years ago, we learn how the First Armada War ended: With Falcrest burning down an entire city with hundreds of thousands of people in it, just to demonstrate its might. This also killed Abd's mother, and set into motion his decisions. 
  • A reminder that Baru is in possession of the Palimpset with all the confessions to the Ilykari priests, but hasn't been able to decode it yet. 
  • In an interesting exchange between Aminata and an extremely high Execarne, he explains to her that Falcrest has become parasitic, and this will be its eventual downfall. Probably also good to remember how much Execarne values Tau-indi. 

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