I am conflicted. Not since I read The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu earlier this year have I been so conflicted about to what extent I believed the book in question had succeeded in what it set out to do.
The titular Baru Cormorant grows up near the sea in the nation of Taranoke with her mother Pinion and her fathers Solit and Salm when the Empire of Masks—otherwise known as the Masquerade—comes to trade, and eventually to colonize. They do it quietly, and they do it thoroughly. The Masquerade brings a plague that wipes out the majority of the Taranoke people, leaving the country ripe for the picking. They bring many changes with them in the form of new roads, new medicines, and their own form of currency in the form of paper money that soon becomes the only accepted currency to be found. They also bring pseudo-scientific, eugenicist teachings about “hygiene”, including that correct, healthy unions are between one man and one woman, and that sodomites and tribadists are in need of—violent, sometimes deadly—correction.