the Little Red Reviewer

Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee

Posted on: October 19, 2017

raven stratagemRaven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

published June 2017

Where I got it: Purchased New







Looking back at my review of the first book in this series, Ninefox Gambit, I wrote a pretty crappy review.  I remember when I finished that book, my mind was absolutely blown, and I had absolutely no idea how the heck to talk about what I’d just read.  So I wrote a passable review and then ordered the 2nd book in the series, Raven Stratagem.


I had a similar experience with Raven Stratagem.  My mind was utterly blown, and I knew I had no idea how to discuss what I just read.


So I read Raven Stratagem again, paid closer attention, and took more notes. You guys.  I don’t even like military scifi. And I loved the living shit out of this book. I never thought I’d say that some military science fiction books had become my comfort reads, but 2017 is a weird place.


Ninefox Gambit was on a comparatively small scale. It mostly took place on one ship, with Jedao manipulating the shit out of Cheris, and then showing her how powerful a skilled manipulator can be and how easy their society is to manipulate. All Kel cadets learn about the madman General Jedao who slaughtered his own troops, but they have no idea who he was as a person. Cheris gets to learn who he is as a person. It changes her mind.


Raven Stratagem is manipulation on a much, much larger scale.Yes, Jedeo is running around in Cheris’s body (is there anything of her left in there? Who knows), but in this novel we also get a look at the Hexarchates and how they run their factions.  Running a faction mostly means manipulating your fellow leaders so that you can get what you want, and right now, they all want immortality.  All this political manipulation would be sick if it wasn’t so darn entertaining!


If the first book was algebra, then this second book is trigonometry – with a focus on the study of angles.

Raven Stratagem has addictive plot lines, characters seeking revenge, backstabbing, brainwashing, people questioning societal norms,  characters that leap off the page, and secret seeds that grow into forests of plans within plans. Everyone in this book wants something, the hard part is ensuring no one know what you want or what you care about. Because if they know, they can destroy it.


the book  is written so beautifully that even if it didn’t have any of those things, if it didn’t have any plot whatsoever, it would still be a damn gorgeous book. My brain is still happily fried on this book, so I’m just going to rattle off everything I loved and hope I don’t forget something:


The language and the lexicon – it’s a hexarchate, lots of the slang involves increments of six. People say they will be there in six or 12 minutes, someone is running 6 minutes early. When it was a heptarchate, did everyday conversations involve increments of 7?  Is using increments of six a way of saying “hexarchate forever, what is this heptarchate garbage I keep seeing in history books?”  There is this wonderful conversation early in the novel about concepts their language has no words for, making it difficult for people to discuss certain topics, because they literally have no language for it.


Mikodez!!  Oh, I adore Mikodez!  He is an absolutely fucked up individual and a total asshole, but I love him so much.  His relationship with his brother makes me cry. Definitely one of my favorite characters I have come across this year.  Everytime I got to another chapter, I hoped it was a Mikodez chapter.   I would love for there to be a movie of this book just so I can see Mikodez in the flesh and ooh and ahh over his super cool wardrobe.


The food!  Everyone in this book has a true appreciate for food, enjoying meals, and insisting that their local cuisine is the best.  Yep, I’m a foodie, so I loved reading about the food.  Mikodez’s obsession with sweets was adorable, especially since everyone else seems to eat rather sensibly.


The relationship between Jedao and Khiruev.  They both deserve some kind of happiness in their life. I am very much shipping those two. Just going to leave that there.


Jedao’s response to seeing what’s inside that coffin and realizing the Hafn are even more fucked up than the Kel.  It’s one thing to build up an unstoppable military, remove choice and agency from your troops, and then send them on suicide missions.  But the Hafn? These people take it to a whole new level. Maybe because they are terrified, desperate, and have nothing left to lose? The Hafn are absolutely fucked up and need their own book.


The subtle conversations about what the job of the military is. Is the military’s job to be a weapon that can be pointed at an enemy?  Or is their job to help foster peace and a less violent world? Should the military industry work to perpetuate itself, or make itself obsolete?


Really, everything about Raven Stratagem is a giant YES.


Should I be worried that I got a lot of management and leadership advice out of this book?


Even better news it that there are a bunch of  Hexarchate short stories on Yoon Ha Lee’s webpage! Squeee!


You can also take the “what faction are you!” quiz.  The “which is the best Starship” question just about killed me. How am I supposed to choose between the Enterprise and Serenity?  And the Nostromo isn’t an option? What?


Apparently I am a Rahal.




3 Responses to "Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee"

I try not to think about which of my management and leadership skills began in Ninefox Gambit or Raven Stratagem. I fear for my employees.


Couple of thoughts. I never have found time to write about Ninefox, or anything else, but I wouldn’t really call it MilSF. Dunno about the new one, but I think you’re safe on that count. (Though there is a very broad range of MilSF out there, not just the guts and glory stuff.)

Second, I really hope I can resurrect the blog soon, because I would love a conversation with you and a few others about these books. So much to chew over, in the same way Ancillary Justice or Quantum Thief stirred up all kinds of stuff in the genre.


Do a “Mild Meld” type conversation post, with more chatting in the comments?


join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,543 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on



FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
%d bloggers like this: