Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
This entire review contains major spoilers for Ninefox Gambit—continue with caution
The Battle of the Fortress of Scattered Needles is over.
Kel Cheris is dead.
Shuos Jedao has possessed her body.
And the hexarchate will never be the same.
General Kel Khiruev is assigned to combat the Hafn, until Jedao arrives in Cheris’ body and uses formation instinct to commandeer the entire swarm. Only one Kel—Brezan—can seem to combat Jedao’s influence, but he is quickly shipped away along with the other factions aboard the swarm.
As Khiruev plays a game of cat and mouse with Jedao, the hexarchs squabble over what to do with the rebellious general, the Hafn attacks and the potential for immortality.
A lot happens in this book, and yet the pace slowed down incredibly from the nonstop siege of Ninefox Gambit. The stakes are higher, an entire swarm is kidnapped, and you’re never quite sure where the hell Jedao is taking everything.
Whereas Ninefox Gambit focuses on a single battle, Raven Stratagem is a war of layers—with many key players, many strategies, many fronts and many different motivations and end games.
There were a lot more points of view in this book, bouncing from place to place and person to person so quickly that I almost got whiplash, but I adored reading about the weirdly complicated calendrical system and the style of government of the hexarchate. It’s so different than anything I had read before, and yet follows many of the same principles of totalitarian regimes who govern a diverse swath of humanity.
However, despite the government detailing…well, everything and valuing life for less than shit, every character is queer. There are nonbinary characters, trans characters and cis characters, and sexualities ranging from ace to aro to gay to lesbian to pan to bisexual—it was so incredible to see. Additionally, there are a number of poly romances. Spoiler: there is an incestuous relationship, but it is stressed that this is not the norm and that it is not akin to the LGBTQIAP+ identities in the rest of the book.
Despite the slow pacing, it picks up very quickly towards the end and there were so many twists and turns and so exquisitely written that I am just dying to read Revenant Gun, which promises to add more layers to this world.
Also, I need more people to read this so that I can write to them and use the heretical sign off, because it is hilarious, blasphemous and kinda-evil all at once.
Yours in calendrical heresy,