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One of the Time 100 Best Fantasy Books Of All Time Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu recipient of Hugo Nebula and World Fantasy awards Hailed as one of the best books of 2015 by NPRWily 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 uickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies silk draped airships and shapeshifting gods 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 Fans of intrigue intimate plots and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty

10 thoughts on “The Grace of Kings

  1. says:

    Why two stars?Women Where were they? For 400 pages we had one main female character who ended up being treated way too much like a secondary character The rest of the women were minor characters And the main female character spent most of her story arc picking herbs getting pregnant having babies encouraging her husband to take a second wife and then becoming stereotypically jealous of the new woman in her man's lifeWe were given one token female warrior character in the latter half of the book who fought in battles alongside the men but she was hardly an interesting and complex character and she arrived too little too late for me In all honesty the ratio of male to female characters in this book is kind of laughablePlot ambitious but ultimately lost in a mass of world building and histories and mythology World building should enhance and complement plot and characters but this seemed to bury them under its massive weight If as much care and planning and dimension were put into the characters as was put into this world then we might have had something really interestingCharacters Wooden predictable stereotypical cliched There really wasn't a single character I felt a connection toDialogue Problematic At times the dialogue felt appropriate other times it felt way too modern I don't mind one style over the other just have continuityWill I Read On? No I love the influence of ancient Chinese dynasties in this novel and I might could overlook most of the points that I made but the representation of women and how little they featured in this book doesn't inspire me to continue the series And though the end of book one has set up a storyline where a few of the female characters may feature prominently it looks like the storyline will focus on jealousy and envy between the two wives of the main character and I feel I can easily find complex and better representations of women elsewhere

  2. says:

    Actual Rating 15 StarsYeeshIt's such a relief to have made it to the end of this bookSo let me start with the positive I love the Asian influence in the story We don't see a lot of High Fantasy series with such a rich historical element that are based outside of Europe This is something I definitely appreciated But unfortunately I just could not connect to any other part of this storyThe first 40% 50% of this novel is an absolute jumble It hops around from character to character telling each story without providing enough cohesion for me care about anyoneI feel the book would've benefited hugely from better organization I honestly gave up trying to keep most of the characters straight Eventually the story narrows down to two central leaders but everyone everything else around them flew by me in a rapid blurry whirlwind of confusionEvery so often I would latch onto a thread of what was happening in one section of the story but it never held my interest long enough for me to invest Soon enough I was lost againI want to emphasize that I have no problems at all with a heavily political story I have no trouble keeping up with complicated relationships switching allegiances and intricate webs of charactersThe Grace of Kings is almost entirely politics fighting death Usually I can dig thatBut I was just overwhelmingly bored while reading this The politics weren't compelling people whose names I've already forgotten were dying left right I could not get behind anyone's causeAlso I think it's relevant to mention that this book barely ualifies as High Fantasy We are provided with one perspective from a group of gods but otherwise there are no relevant fantastical elements to this storyOne character is abnormally large and has two pupils in his eyes because well I'm sure there was a reason But it didn't really end up mattering a bunch?What I'm trying to say is that if I didn't know any better I'd say this was some creative Historical FictionLastly I want to address the criticism of this book not handling women well On one hand I understand the setting didn't allow for much wiggle room for including female characters I see there was an attempt to include strong women in this story within the constraints of the time period On the other hand I still have a bad taste in my mouth upon finishing the bookThere was some decent pro euality dialogue here there but it wasn't followed through by creating meaningful roles for the women that did pop up Ultimately not something I could recommend with a clear conscience I think there is an audience for a book like this but sadly I'm not a member of it

  3. says:

    Omg This is one of those where you like no one because they either die or piss you off Sigh it was still a 5 star for me Now I can't say my favorite character shakes fistI have the paperback but listened to the audio and realized it was Michael Kramer I love his narrations so that explains why that was so good I will be adding it to my Audible library as well Happy Reading Y'all Mel 🖤🐺🐾

  4. says:

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum was never a really good student of history But my family background being Chinese I’ve always been taught to embrace my heritage I grew up listening and adoring the history and legendary tales of Ancient China told to me by my parents and grandparents who have learned these things themselves when they were children My great uncle was also fond of watching old Wuxia operas and historical dramas and he used to record these and leave the tapes at our house for the curious and unsuspecting adolescent me to find They wereinterestingIt might seem like I’m zipping off on a tangent here but really I’m trying my best to explain why I loved this book so much I read The Grace of Kings with a strange mixture of emotions I’ve never experienced before while reading anything else in my life It was part giddiness at the familiarity of the topic; the fall of the in Dynasty and the subseuent rise of the Han Dynasty being such an important and tumultuous period in China’s classical age it was instantly recognizable that this interregnum was what Ken Liu was basing his story on I was like “Oh I think I know the story or legend that inspired this scenecharacterevent etc” pretty much every few chaptersI was also very moved and I struggle to find the words to explain this In essence seeing what the author has done here – taking these snippets of legends and tales from history that I’ve grown up with and incorporating into this novel forming this wondrous piece of literature – at times it was too much to take Many of the side stories in The Grace of Kings had the feel and atmosphere of the old anecdotes my elders shared with me when I was younger At times I got so sentimental that I was nearly moved to tears It’s also a beautiful book Anyway personal aside over I don’t usually get sappy in my reviews but I just don’t know how else to describe how much reading this novel affected me I saw Ken Liu take a historical narrative that I know and love and transform it into this gorgeous work of artWhile The Grace of Kings is a combination of East Asian sources with Western elements that’s only just the beginning It’s also a blend of storytelling traditions from various other cultures and historical eras along with elements from epic fantasy mythology and even a bit of steampunk action with airships and war kites and airborne duels thrown in The novel’s themes speak to the human condition exploring the corrupting force of absolute power and the chaos that inevitably follows great change but the original and poignant execution by Liu gives it all a fresh and new perspectiveIndeed the novel is different from a lot of today’s mainstream fantasy Expressive modes of storytelling aside a lot of the nuances can also be attributed to the writing style It took a long time for me to read The Grace of Kings for as fervently as I would have liked to devour this book it just can’t be rushed In this sense Liu’s writing reminds me a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay another author of historical fantasy whose work I greatly admire and respect Like Kay again Liu’s evocative prose feels almost like poetry meant to be savored In between the major perspectives like those of Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu Liu also inserts mini narratives from those around the main characters A pantheon of gods stand witness to a group of people whose lives have been touched by the two leaders and by the events surrounding the uprising against the emperor War is never insignificant or simple; its effects are felt far and wide by everyone from all walks of life Each person has a tale to tellThis collection of narratives therefore makes the widespread conflict feel realistic though one downside is that it puts a distance between the reader and the events of the story making some of scenes featuring significant developments like major victories and defeats feel muted and less impactful On the other hand being able to follow a vast network of characters also greatly opens up the worldThat said the up close and personal relationships are important to the story too Mata Zyndu appears to be based on the warlord Xiang Yu while Kuni Garu is loosely modeled after Liu Bang both prominent historical figures during the insurgency in the late in Dynasty Both characters have similar goals during the revolution to overthrow a brutal reign a friend of mine has playfully compared this to Game of Thrones calling it “Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon The Early Years” but then later on they come to blows The story immediately picked up for me after the two of them meet and it just took off from thereKen Liu deftly chronicles the relationship between Kuni and Mata contrasting them and emphasizing their ideological differences from the beginning despite their easy friendship Things don’t slow down even after the overthrow of Erishi Emperor Mapidéré’s weak heir Honorable ruthless Mata is often at odds with the fun loving and merciful Kuni and the conflict finally boils over in the mayhem that follows After all there are many ways to wage a war with honor and guile being two sides of the same coin Just when you think things are winding down the true excitement begins My favorite character doesn’t even make her first appearance until around the three uarters mark Gin Mazoti who was an orphan born to a prostitute and survived a rough childhood on the streets to become the greatest military strategist the world has ever seen Gin stormed onto the page amidst the chaos and I fell in love with her character immediately I could probably write a whole page about how awesome she is but there are certain things best left to surpriseThe greatest stories are those that stir both the heart and mind and The Grace of Kings is one of those rare novels that accomplishes this feat magnificently Ken Liu gives readers a lot than just a story about epic battles friendship and betrayal compassion and cruelty; he also inspires After reading this book I wanted to dig deeper into the historical period that the story was based on to give myself context to the tales and legends I’ve always heard about Highly recommended for epic fantasy fans looking to venture beyond traditional boundaries and for all readers who love being immersed in incredible breathtaking worlds

  5. says:

    This is a very interesting tale reminding me as I read it just how little I still know of Chinese history I want to romance kingdoms and wallow in all the warring states and yet from everything I do know this novel is and remains uniue It borrows from the old histories to make a thoroughly modern fantasy epic And when I say epic I mean epic rises to power and grand falls with a few memorable characters mostly women and an absolutely huge supporting cast Armies march from the start and armies march at the end and nowhere in the middle are we lacking any battleIt's the story of two brothers in arms one nobel one not their rise together and their falling out tearing the land into chaosI was immensely impressed with the care and effort taken into bringing a Chinese immersive narrative into a modern english epic while including a decisively steampunk flavor Let's fly a kite shall we? Tactics and war tactics and warBeyond that it was the Marshal that I loved the most All the women were fairly complex and multi roled but it was the Marshal of the armies that made me whoop I really liked the novel and I'm very impressed by it but alas I can't really see it as the winner of the Nebula this year I did get slightly bogged down in some of the battles but not all Some were uite interesting The two main male characters that the whole thing revolved around could have been flavourful It's just my preference I've read a lot of great fantasy This isn't the top and it certainly isn't the worst of the lot It was absolutely interesting though

  6. says:

    An ambitious epic fantasy that at times felt like reading a history than a novelI've become a fan of Liu's short stories so was eager to read his debut long form novel At over 600 pages it is pretty longWe're introduced to the archipelago of Dara a collection of islands which seem to be constantly at war The book follows a number of characters who plot coups rise to power form alliances betray each other and sometimes die miserably and violentlyIt's a fantasy with not much magic There are gods who spend time commenting on human behavior and occasionally making suggestions directly to individuals There are a few fantastic beasts and mysterious occurrences but largely the laws of physics apply In that it reminded me of much of Guy Gavriel Kay's work especially the recent 'River of Stars' The main characters are Kuni Garu a seemingly 'ordinary man' who may have a great destiny and Mata Zyndu who never seemed ordinary it was always assumed that he was born to be a hero Their changing relationship is the thread that runs throughout the book however there's a sometimes dizzying cast of other characters Dara is described as very ethnically diverse but culturally it seems pretty Chinese I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were familiar with factual Chinese history I might find some interesting parallels here At times the plot events seem like they must be based on real events because while their complexity seems like than a fictional plot would call for it's very much in line with power struggles that might really have happened with many different factors coming into playIndividual chapters here are brilliant The writing is excellent and some of the scenes are beautiful heartbreaking or thought provoking I very much agree with many of the observations and conclusions that are brought to the forefront through the narrative They include philosophical notes on war and the nature of conflict human relationships gender roles how expectations can twist people etc At times they were just slightly too obvious though Taken as a whole the book took a bit of work to get through and I found myself a little bit distanced from it Maybe it's the third person objective point of view which contributes to the 'history book' feeling I mentioned

  7. says:

    As I suppose many other readers of The Grace of Kings I discovered Ken Liu due to his extraordinary translation of Cixin Liu's excellent The Three Body Problem and Death's End as well as his collection of marvelous short stories The Paper Menagerie Unlike all of those works in this first volume of The Dandelion Dynasty series we are treated to a fantasy universe with middle age technology interfering gods and a wonderful mashup stories and legends inspired by classical Chinese and Polynesian mythology Essentially it is the story of Mata and Kuni and how their evolving relationship no spoilers affects the island world of Dara While it takes the Western reader a while to appreciate the multitude of characters the story really picks up pace and entertains throughout It does a great job of breaking boundaries from traditional mythology by featuring strong female characters and introducing surprise upon surprise in the plot There is also a lot of both science and nature critical for the dumbed down times we are living in As Jia Kuni's wife says When you learn enough about the world even a blade of grass can be a weapon P 114 I found myself diving deeper and deeper into this fantasy world and really appreciating the depth and variety of characters presented as well as the author's incredible imagination in creating the imperial airships the ard whales and a million other brilliant ideas and inventions I can't wait to read the next volume The Wall of Storms to see what happens nextFino's Cixin Liu and other Chinese SciFi and Fantasy ReviewsThe Three Body ProblemThe Dark ForestDeath's EndThe Wandering EarthSupernova EraBall LightningThe Redemption of Time Fan Fiction approved by Cixin LiuInvisible Planets Short Story AnthologyThe Paper Menagerie and Other StoriesThe Grace of KingsThe Wall of Storms

  8. says:

    This book is AMAZING A masterpiece I have so many thoughts This book had me thinking the whole time I read it Not just about what would happen with the plot so many twists It was fantastic But also just with the way it touched on issues and ideas that we find in our own world It’s a slower read to me it reads uite a bit like and old medieval epic but it’s worth it in the end Truly an astounding work

  9. says:

    DNF ed at page 340Rating 1 stars on principle of 'I don't think too highly on people passing their fanfics off as published novelstheir own original creations'Random Thoughts when reading the book The opening scene does remind me of Records of the Grand Historian and the Biographies of the AssassinsActual review starts hereWhat I think should be the real title of this book Chu Han Contention the FanficJust in case you are not familiar with Chinese history and you have no idea what the hell is the Chu Han Contention here is some basic information is so so sad that so far I can only find one single other reviewer who has mentioned the total lack of originality on Ken Liu's partAt this point I can pretty much hear Ken Liu laughing all the way to the bank and he does have every reason to laugh because what can be convenient than writing a fanfic then still have people paying to read your fanfic whilst giving you praises for your so called originality and what not? Let me repeat again what is the main problem the novel is basically a fanfic based on historical events and figures from ancient China and I personally just can't take people passing fanfics off as published novels seriously So exactly how bad is the problem? As so as I read through the first 100 pages of the book I found I have a bone to pick with Ken Liu 'Hi Mr Liu I'm reading your book The Grace of Kings but I don't think you deserve full credit for the creation of this story I mean let's face it at least 80% if not 90% of this story and its characters are ripoff lifted from the events in Chinese history and actually existed historical figures from ancient China' Perhaps I'm too uick to judge Still to be honest around 20 pages into the novel I started to suspect the storyline of this supposedly 'Asian influenced' fantasy epic is a copy and paste of the Fall of the in Empire and the two rebellious Main Characters are repeating the rivalry between Lau Bang and Xiang Yu two legendary historical figures from that eraPlus isn't this Xana Empire and its Emperor in the novel are basically the in Empire and the First Emperor aka King Zheng of in aka in Shi Huang going by with other names?Therefore a huge amount of credits should have gone to1 Sima ian the famed historian from around 130 BC who penned Records of the Grand Historian who recorded and immortalized the deeds of the First Emperor Lau Bang Xiang Yu and many others2 The countless other historians script writers story tellers novelists play writers who rewrote and retold the epic tales about the Fall of the in Empire and the Rise of the Han Dynasty and kept these legendary events alive through millenniumsSo why is there a problem? Let's do a checklist1 It isn't just the First Emperor Lau Bang and Xiang Yu being lifted from historical texts even the supporting characters the secondary characters and the third ranking characters in The Grace of Kings can all find their actually existed historical counterparts in the history books2 To add insult to injury Mr Liu didn't even bother to change much of anything out of the source materials perhaps expects of the airships we can't find these in ancient China right? so there were Seven Warring States in the history of China? Good Mr Liu has Seven States in his fictional world too So according to Sima ian there was a failed attempt at the First Emperor's life when the guy was having a grand tour across his Empire? Good this dramatic scene is covered in the very first chapter of this novel So both Lau Bang and Xiang Yu got a glimpse of the First Emperor when the latter traveled across cities? Good Kuni and Mata from the novel would do just the same So there was a tragic romance between Xiang Yu the Hegemon and his Concubine Yu? Good this famous tragic love story gets a repeat in the story of Mata Zyndu the Hegemon and Lady Mira in the novel as well Examples like these are endless3 Last but not least many poems by famous Chinese poets many songs many slang and uite a number of teaching from ancient Chinese sages also mysteriously found their ways into the fictional world of Xana Empire into the mouths of many fictional characters too4 My point is it seems to me that before Ken Liu even sat himself down and started penning this novel most of the hard labor a novelist must have gone through when creating hisher novel researching dramatization of the events characterization and even the characters' setting had already been done by Sima ian and the other historians and novelists etc How convenient5 My point is it's okay to base your stories on real history and historical figures after all these historical figures and events are no copyrighted items right? But would you please don't be so obvious please? And here is something I have for readers who are still wondering 'what is the problem here?' Let me ask you one thing can you take a 'epic high fantasy novel' seriously after you discover said 'high fantasy epic' is actually the author lifting the entire period of World War II from history textbook then placing it on a supposed fantasy landscape then renaming famous historical figures such as Hitler and Churchill into some other names else renaming the locations adding a few magical elements into the story and then call it a dayCan you really tolerate this kind of 'novel writing'? I can understand authors getting inspired by Chinese history or basing their stories and characters on said history but a copy and paste ripoff from the actual Chinese history so far all Mr Liu had seemingly done for this story is to draw up a map for some fantasy landscapes changed a bit of the details created eight godsgoddesses renaming historical figures is not really okay in my bookI know Ken Liu has make no secret where his inspiration came from but copying the historical events in Chinese history translating them into English then puts them in a high fantasy backdrop and sells it to English speaking audience still leaves a bad taste in my mouth It feels like Mr Liu believes his audience is too ignorant too uninformed too innocent to discover what he is up to It might sound like I hate this book but actually I don't It's enjoyable to read Mr Liu does has his elegant way of writing a fine touch with constructing details for his fictional world and many good and beautiful use of metaphors although not many of them are truly original but I can live with it and the plot is so easy to follow because most of them are already familiar to me and my reading progress is the same like people keep finding Easter Eggs in MCU movies 'Look I'd read about this or that scene or this or that characters from history book before ' Let's wait and see how the rest of the book will turn outPS if you are interested in reading martial art historical andor fantasy novels with a lick of originality do try the novels by Liang Yusheng Jin Yong or Gu Long These are the Big Three in the field of the martial art novels anyway

  10. says:

    2ish starsAn okay book that I recognize has many merits but that I must concede isn't for me This book is very well written Ken Liu uses a very efficient utilitarian style that somehow also manages to be uite poetic at times and it works well with this mythology inspired content I think my biggest issues are personal ones this isn't what I expected and it's just not my thing I was expectinghoping for fantasy and this really isn't that As mentioned there's some East Asia inspired mythology which is cool in concept but I didn't get enough of it to be satisfied To me it reads like a historical fictionmilitary novel It took me about 40% of the book to become interested and I was only mildly so after that I listened on Audible so this might read better in print format There's a lot of information and there are a lot of characters and it was hard for me to keep track of them without being able to reference previous parts of the book If the synopsis sounds cool to you and the writing style sounds like something you're into I totally recommend this book If you're looking for Chinese infused steampunkmagic look elsewhere