The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

[dnf at 50%]

I have complicated feelings about this book. There were so much that I like, that felt fresh but the rest was like pulling teeth…idk let’s go through it:

It doesn’t read like the adventures of a select few ‘chosen ones’ in a fantasy world. Rather than follow one (or multiple) characters it follows the event of a revolution against the incumbent Emperor. Multiple people rise up organically to fight back in entirely separate circumstances as would realistically happen when a power vacuum exists. They’re also not all Lawful Good or out for revenge. Some just see it as an opportunity to lead or build a better standing. Some succumb to power just as easily as the Empire higher-ups and some, since they have no experience in military strategy or leadership, are defeated. It does a great job of simulating a history book with an eagle’s view of the entire conflict.

The world is quite fascinating, it’s diverse and just hints at cultural idiosyncrasies like how the position a person sits in company determines how formal/important they consider the meeting to be. Unfortunately, while the characters are nuanced and plentiful, they’re almost aggressively uninteresting. Maybe due to the vast scope of the book, Liu jumps between locations, points of view (occasionally with big time skips) and characters have only enough time to decide on their next action before we’re whisked away to the next. Occasionally the pace slows down and Liu’s short story skills come into focus as he reveals some grand event or intricate backstory through just a few words. But then, too soon we’re back to the top down view, the dry textbook that is recounting the notable events of this civil war.

I stopped just as the war was coming to an end so it may be that the second half of the book, that deals with ruling in the aftermath, is better. And I have heard that the sequel improves on it. So if the issues I had are not dealbreakers, it might be worth pushing through.

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