In the second installment of Yoon Ha Lee’s MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE series, Raven Stratagem (2017), Captain Kel Charis finds herself possessed by the 300-odd year old General Shuos Jedao. Naturally, Jedao’s existence isn’t good news for anyone nearby, which a Kel fleet soon discovers when Jedao (posing as Charis) takes command of the fleet for reasons unknown. Though Jedao has promised to carry out the fleet’s original mission, fighting the heritical Haftn whose exotic technologies mysteriously function in calendrical space, Jedao’s plans are never that simple. Who knows what a rogue traitor-general could do with a Kel fleet?
Raven Strategem is a sequel that (conveniently) doesn’t continue the flaws of its predecessors. As Stuart and I wrote in our reviews of Ninefox Gambit, book one is overwhelming because we’re thrown headlong into a complex, alien world with little to no guidance from the author. In Raven Strategem, however, most of the worldbuilding has already been done in book one, and Lee doesn’t greatly expand the world of MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE beyond what’s necessary for the plot. As a result, we’re much more comfortably settled into the Hexarchate and more prepared to focus on the rest of the storyline.
I don’t have much to say about the storyline itself beyond what we’ve already noted about Ninefox Gambit: Lee’s plot in book two is full of the same politicking, faction warfare, and complexity that kept readers on their toes in book one. Raven Strategem is well-paced, action-packed, and neatly planned out on Lee’s part — I can say that the plot twist(s) were definitely unexpected.
Overall, the most important aspect of Raven Strategem is that if you were even a lukewarm fan of Ninefox Gambit, you’re guaranteed to be an even bigger fan of Raven Strategem. If it’s been awhile since you’ve picked up Ninefox Gambit, I’d recommend that you check out Lee’s handy-dandy refresher “Hexarchate Faction Cheat Sheet” before jumping into its sequel. Otherwise, I’m not sure why you’re not at your local library/bookstore trying to track down some more Yoon Ha Lee for your weekend…