The Grace of Kings By Ken Liu

Well hello again my pretties.
Sorry it’s been so long, but sometimes I just don’t really feel like doing this, you know? And for a while there I was working and blah blah boring life blah.
But now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk about books again! Huzzah! Hurray! Hurrah!

I wanted to like this one a lot more than I ended up actually liking it. (Do I say that a lot? I feel like I say that a lot.)
First off, props to Ken Liu for ambition. This novel is a huge accomplishment when it comes to world building. The setting and the culture were crazy good, complicated and completely believable, while still managing to be interesting. And it was nice to finally read a big, epic, sweeping fantasy (or Silkpunk, which Liu called it, a description I’m all in for) novel that wasn’t set in a European or faux-European setting.
But there were just some things that kept me from really getting into it.
First off is the characters. While the world and the culture that they inhabited were really detailed and well laid out, they mostly seemed pretty one dimensional and flat. Yes, some of them changed over time, and changed their minds about things over time, but they still seemed more like vehicles to explore the extremes of specific ideas or points of view than actual, fully fleshed out characters.
On that same note, and twisted up into the previous point, is the problem I had with the dialogue. A lot of it seemed really weird and stilted to me. More proverbial than conversational, if that makes sense. Paired with the one-dimensional nature of the characters, it just made the whole thing seem oddly parable-y to me. And that can be, and is, a perfectly valid style choice. It just didn’t quite work for me.
Lastly I’ll say that while this didn’t bug me too much, ’cause I love this shit, it’s what I come to big fantasy for, there was a loooottttt of world-building in this book. For some reason I love love love reading the stuff that people come up with for make-believe cultures (I read that entire mammoth history of the world of song of ice and fire book in like two or three sittings), but this book had a shit-ton of it. So much so that I could see it bothering people who aren’t fake history connoisseurs, and all around weirdos, like myself. So if that kind of thing puts you off, just be aware of it going in.
Hmmm…I feel like this has come across as if I didn’t really like it. And I did! Sort of. Mostly. Basically, if you’re a fan of epic fantasy and are looking to try something a little different than the medieval European variety (and the things I mentioned above don’t sound like deal-breakers to you) than I think you should give it a shot. It’s pretty good!


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