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The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty) Hardcover – April 7, 2015
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"Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings — a magnificent fantasy epic. Liu is building a dynasty." (Amal El-Mohtar NPR Books)
"The Grace of Kings is an ambitious, astonishing, and sublime work, one that both exemplifies and diverges from what one might think of when it comes to epic fantasy. It should rank amongst the genre's best works." (Andrew Liptak io9)
"Liu’s combination of elements from China, Polynesia and beyond, told in an epic style, is the kind of Silk Road Fantasy that I’ve always wanted to read, and love all the more now that I have." (Paul Weimer SF Signal)
"Told in Liu’s graceful, intelligent, and literate prose, the novel is a sumptuous Epic feast." (Rob Bedford SFF World)
"The Grace of Kings is a fantasy, with petty meddling gods, odd mechanized inventions, and a sense that mystical powers lurk around the corner. It is nothing if not epic." (Justin Landon Tor.com)
"The epic fantasy genre can only be enriched by more novels drawing from non-Western traditions. Liu’s ambitious work expertly blends mythology, history, military tactics, and technological innovation (airships and submarines). " (Kirkus Reviews)
"The Grace of Kings is grand, mythic and epic, but Liu’s “silk-punk” world of trickster gods and giant horned whales is also a delight." (Relentless Reading)
About the Author
Ken Liu is one of the most lauded authors in the field of American literature. A winner of the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, Locus Sidewise, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards, he has also been nominated for the Sturgeon and Locus Awards. His short story, “The Paper Menagerie,” is the first work of fiction to simultaneously win the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. He also translated the 2015 Hugo Award–winning novel The Three-Body Problem, written by Cixin Liu, which is the first novel to ever win the Hugo award in translation. The Grace of Kings, his debut novel, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series set in a universe he and his wife, artist Lisa Tang Liu, created together. It was a finalist for a Nebula Award and the recipient of the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He lives near Boston with his family.
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Seeing a new epic fantasy that dares to break from the widely accepted norms is a breath of fresh air, but that's where the book's charms begin rather than end. There is a lot to love here. A sweeping, epic tale that leaps from island to island steeped in lore, the story manages to embrace tropes we have seen while casting them in a new light. The storytelling traditions borrow heavily from the Greek epics and the Aeneid and marry them with the intricate plotting and characters of Jin Yong and the wuxia rubric of China, while also taking liberally from the armamentarium of epic fantasy.
That is not to say the book is without missteps and flaws; some of the characterizations I find lacking. The author's lack of usage of strict viewpoint permits jumping from one location to the next, but also precludes us from establishing relationships with characters in the way that A Song of Ice and Fire manages to.
These complaints are small in comparison to the overall charms, however, and I found the silkpunk ethos at once charming and promising. With limited time to read for leisure, I choose my series with care. This one I will definitely continue. In addition, this has prompted me to read Ken Liu's multi-award winning short fiction works, which I would also recommend.
And he does—and not just in plot or setting. For better or worse, The Grace of Kings upends epic fantasy expectations with pacing and tone too—the book reads more like a collection of fables, or a (recorded) oral history, than a typical novel. Light-hearted, spanning many years, featuring characters a little too extreme to be believed, one almost feels the tale comes with the mythological veneer of a second-or third-hand telling, something passed down rather than spun fresh from the author’s brain.
The pacing and scope stand out most in this book. Where we usually expect just one beginning, middle and end, and the deep insight into character that only fiction offers, Liu gives us many characters in light detail, and a story that spans many years and climaxes of action. Economy of words shouldn’t be surprising from an author of so many (wonderful) short stories—it’s second nature to such authors (see Mary Robinette Kowal). But Liu declines the opportunity of a longer word count to get deeper into his character’s heads, opting instead for a sort of saga of sketches, an epic of vignettes that together form a broader tale than we expect from a single novel (really, the characters and plots would be fodder for a trilogy from most authors).
That’s not to say Liu’s debut novel is without depth. Though the characters are sketched rather than illustrated in great detail...read the full review (and more!) at topnewfantasy.com
To be clear about this book, I absolutely loved it! This is not my typical Hard SciFi read, but rather a very deeply involving Fantasy. Yet the fantasy elements are kept at a minimum, and set against the very realistic history and stories of the many characters. And yes, make no mistake, the characters do indeed drive the plot(s).
This decidedly is not a quick, easy read. On my Kindle White Paper, it didn't show me how many pages the story entails, but I imagine the a hardback would be a rather mighty tome. That said, the story that make up this first of three novels, takes it's time to unfold and unfurl.
I'm sure that some folks would not care for parts of the dialogue, as it seems to be needlessly wordy. However, I think that those characters are speaking from what they consider to be a position of learning, and erudition. Not that all dialogue is stilted and formal, no sir.
But as any epic (and this is an Epic) tale takes it due course, the subplots do come together, and then fall apart, then are weaved back together skillfully.
I heartily recommend this novel, and am about to start the second one. I just hope Mr. Liu can hurry up and finish the last one soon!