The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu is a sweeping tale of war set in a “silk punk” world clearly inspired by various Asian folklores. The Grace of Kings is one of those books that I can see the incredible technical merit of, but didn’t enjoy personally as much as I’d hoped. The tone reminded me starkly of a bird’s-eye-view of the story, instead of connecting closely with one or two characters, so if you don’t need close character connections to enjoy a story, The Grace of Kings might be more for you than it was for me.
Note: I received an advanced copy of The Grace of Kings from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (The Dandelion Dynasty #1)
Published by Saga Press on April 7th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Military Fantasy
Page Length: 640 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, soaring battle kites, conspiring goddesses, underwater boats, magical books, as a streetfighter-cum-general who takes her place as the greatest tactitian of the age. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.
- The world of The Grace of Kings is absolutely beautiful. I’ve only read one other book that could possibly be called silkpunk, so it was fun for me to sink into a story inspired by myths I don’t regularly read. The Grace of Kings does a wonderful job at painting a truly epic-scale picture of the world and you’ll get to visit every place on that map.
- I always love a diverse cast of characters and The Grace of Kings does a pretty good job at diversity. The peoples in The Grace of Kings are described as having skin and hair color ranging from very pale to very dark. While the main characters are both male, there are appearances of a lot of other characters, including some strong woman and a cross-dressing woman.
- I could not predict how the characters in The Grace of Kings would develop and it was really interesting to watch their journeys from children to men literally shaping the world. It was also great to see the events of their lives really changing their personalities as they aged. I love consequences!
- I think my favorite moments in The Grace of Kings were when the gods of the islands literally had side conversations about what was happening in the world. They aren’t allowed to directly meddle, but even gods get bored ;-).
- The Grace of Kings did succeed in making me cry at the end! I didn’t see that coming, but between a very moving scene and apparently eventually connecting to the characters, there were tears.
- The Grace of Kings is pretty darn slow, especially in the first half, though it didn’t pick up for me as much as for others in the second half either.
- There are a bajillion points-of-view in The Grace of Kings! I honestly can’t even count the number of characters who are the focus for a chapter to two here and there. This made it really difficult for me to even identify who were the main characters at first, and then I just didn’t get enough time with them to really connect with them.
- Lending to the problem of the points-of-view, The Grace of Kings has a tendency of going on pretty long tangents to tell the backstory of a character who has just shown up. It almost felt like info-dumping because all of a sudden a bunch of information I needed was thrown at me in the form of a flashback.
- As I said above, The Grace of Kings has a very “bird’s eye view” tone to it that kept me at arm’s length. Many of the scenes seem to be described from a distant perspective, almost like I was watching a documentary about the events instead of living them with the characters.
- The Grace of Kings is pretty much all about battles and war. Some readers like that; I just don’t.
The Grace of Kings will very much appeal to a particular kind of reader; I’m just not that reader. I can see the beauty of the writing and in the end I’m glad that I read it. However, at the time I came close to stopping a few times and must advise that you need to be in the mood for a slow and broad-sweeping epic fantasy when you pick up The Grace of Kings.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
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