‘The Grace of Kings’ Book Review

Mount Readmore Book Review, 2017 29/100

The Grace of Kings By Ken Liu

Audiobook Edition, Michael Kramer

Finished on 3/18/2017


Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Asian Fantasy, Political Fantasy, Military Fantasy, Silkpunk

8 Bickering Gods Squabble over the Fate of the Islands, 1 Emperor is Dying and Will Be Replaced By His 1 Incompetent Son, While 2 Best Friends Plot and Fight Their Way Into Power out of 5

Spoiler-tastic Review

This was a wonderful book, a breath of fresh air. Ken Liu honors a decidedly Eastern tradition of storytelling in this novel, a grand and sweeping epic of the archipelago empire of Dara. Told in a 3rd person omniscient style, occasionally using head-hopping (which is ordinarily taboo in western writing), ‘The Grace of Kings’ is magnificent.

I have not read much in the way of Asian classical literature, so my only point of reference for this novel is Homer’s ‘Iliad.’ Dara is a world at war. King against King, nation against nation, this book is told in a grand yet personal style.  We get to know the bombastic personalities of Mata Zyndu and Kuni Garu on both the personal and planetary scale. No stone is left unturned in their battles against the first Empire and subsequently each other. I would compare Mata Zyndu to the heroism of Achilles at Troy, while Kuni to Odysseus at the same battle. But instead of focusing on only one battle, the author expands the purview of the story to the expanse of years and an entire Empire.

But I do have a few constructive criticisms. For starters, the book’s scope is almost too vast. While the storytelling is magnificent, sometimes it feels like characters behave in an inexplicable fashion just for the sake of the plot. Alternately, I wanted more from the world building. I felt like the reader only touched the barest outer shell of a deeper world; I want to know what the food tasted like, what the air smelled like, what the sand felt like.

I would highly recommend this novel to any reader of the fantasy genre.

Audiobook note: Michael Kramer did an excellent job narrating this book.


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