Always ready for a space opera: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee's books with space ships fighting on the cover.

“Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with 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?”

Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

Published: June 13th 2017 by Solaris

Source: ARC via Netgalley


Jedao is so charismatic – whether it’s just his embodied presence or the chaos of his memory weaving in and out of the story for some characters throughout the story. We do learn more about Jedao’s background origins in this sequel (especially towards the end) but enough mystery remains to pull me in for more. On a wider (more general) note, the personal reflections of various generals on the nature and reasoning behind their military purpose was also a great development in showing this growing self-awareness of the systemic flaws across the various empires.

In particular, this self-awareness manifests itself in a critical look at the ‘instinctual’ formation and different pressures that affects some characters. (Content warnings for suicide during battle, consensual incest).

In terms of the worldbuilding, small details are scattered throughout the story to build a bigger picture. We learn more about the various social classes, family structures, and histories behind some prejudices held by the different societies. Though all of this detail is absorbed alongside the tense conflicts through following the entertaining and idiosyncratic lives of these generals and their interactions.

On a more light-hearted note, I like the small asides of the generals enjoying fluffy duelling/dancing dramas as part of their break time in between larger conflicts. I’m curious to watch one myself someday (alongside trying the food in this universe).

I also loved how normalised different queer identities are in this universe. (In particular, trans, queer, gay, pan, ace, and polyam identities. Though since these identities are normalised in this universe, they don’t have labels). After reading the blurb for the next book, I just can’t wait to find out what happens next to Jedao as well as all of the characters.


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