Book Cover
Title The Grace of Kings
Author Ken Liu
Cover Art Sam Webber
Publisher Simon & Schuster - 2015
First Printing Simon & Schuster - 2015
Book Cover
Title ---
Author Ken Liu
Cover Art ---
Publisher ---
First Printing ---
Category Epic Fantasy
Warnings None
Main Characters Kuni Garu, Matta Zyndu, Jia Matiza, Cogo Yelu, Luan Zya, Gin Mazoti, and many others
Main Elements Gods

Click to read the summaryThe Grace of Kings

Ken Liu has created a fascinating fantasy world with gods and mortals playing a game of thrones, and no, I won't compare it to George R.R. Martin's series. While both epic fantasies revolve around a few fighting for power and the consequences for everyone else, they are very different in tone and style.

One of the key features I look for in a fantasy novel, especially a big epic fantasy, is the world building. You can only fill so many pages with plot, you need to create a complex world into which to drop your characters. This world needs a history, a magic system, a mythology and religion, a culture, you have to feel that these people are real, and yet they are not us. Liu succeeds on this regard.

Next, there are the characters. Now this book wasn't perfect, some of the characters were unfortunately a bit too two-dimensional. You know how Eddard Stark was so perfect (guess I lied about the Song of Ice and Fire comparisons...), well for all of Kuni Garu's faults, he was also maybe a bit too perfect. And for all of Mata's qualities, he was a little too faulty. I mean there was never a time when you had to struggle to choose between the two, it was clear who was in the right and who was in the wrong. Although...if you compared the personality traits of Hitler versus Churchill, it would be something kind of like this. Truth really is stranger than fiction, and fantasy gets held to higher standards of believability than the real world. And in the end, I didn't remove a star because I sympathized with both characters, in fact almost all characters, much as I wanted to knock some sense into stubborn Mata.

There were a ton of secondary characters as well, and like any epic series such as this it can be a bit overwhelming to keep track of everyone, but it's worth the effort to remember which god belongs to which Tiro state, who was king of where, and what bandit was stealing from which nobleman. The book conveniently has them all listed in the front for easy reference. In particular I enjoyed the meddling of the gods, much as they claimed they wouldn't meddle.

And of course, plot matters too. A wonderful world with interesting characters would get boring fast. If you enjoy your battles, there is plenty of that. If you enjoy your political intrigue, there is definitely plenty of that. I found that it was well balanced, and I never got bored, and I always enjoyed discovering how Kuni was going to get out of the next mess he got himself into. The ability of Kuni and his advisers to think outside the box led to all kinds of fun.

The novel wraps up neatly, to the point where it could be a standalone. But in a world where powerful ambitions collide, you know it won't stay quiet for long. I look forward to reading the next installment.

And I'll never look at a dandelion the same way again.

Posted: April 2015


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