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The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings

Scritto da Ken Liu

Narrato da Michael Kramer


The Grace of Kings

Scritto da Ken Liu

Narrato da Michael Kramer

valutazioni:
4/5 (48 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
21 ore
Pubblicato:
Apr 7, 2015
ISBN:
9781442376359
Formato:
Audiolibro

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Descrizione

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.

Wily, 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 quickly 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.
Pubblicato:
Apr 7, 2015
ISBN:
9781442376359
Formato:
Audiolibro

Disponibile anche come...

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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (3/5)
    I really wanted to like this more than I did. Just seemed much too two-dimensional, and it was far too long to be two-dimensional. There were a few really excellent bits, but there were too few and far between for my liking. I think I may still try the next one, but if it doesn't get better quickly, I may give up on it early.
  • (5/5)
    Ken Liu is a multi-award-winning author and translator (in addition to being a lawyer and software programmer), probably best known for his short fiction. I was aware of Liu's work for quite some time before I actually read any of it. His award-winning short story "Mono no Aware"—one of my favorite contributions in the anthology The Future Is Japanese—was my introduction to his fiction and Liu quickly became an author who I made a point to follow. And so I was very interested to learn about his debut novel The Grace of Kings. Published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster's new speculative fiction imprint Saga Press, the novel is the first of three books planned for Liu's series The Dandelion Dynasty. Often described as a silkpunk fantasy epic, the novels are heavily inspired by Chinese history and the historical legends surrounding the Han dynasty, such as the extremely influential Romance of the Three Kingdoms.The islands of Dara were once made up of seven independent kingdoms which were constantly at war with one another. Generations passed before one of the kings was finally able to conquer the others, for the first time uniting the lands to form a single empire. The newly-coronated emperor intended to establish a lasting peace among the lands of Dara, but power has a way of corrupting its wielder and his vision was ultimately overshadowed by his ruthlessness. There were great undertakings made for the good of the empire, but there was also great suffering. As the emperor ages and approaches the end of his life, the stirrings of rebellion begin. Two very different men will be caught up in the resulting wars, becoming leaders in the conflicts as the empire disintegrates: Kuni Garu, a seemingly carefree, small-time gangster, and Mata Zyndu, the last in a long line of legendary warriors and generals. Whether through fate, luck, or the will of the gods, together the two of them are destined to help shape and reshape Dara as it enters into a new era.Over the course of The Grace of Kings, Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu emerge as two of the most pivotal characters in the unfolding epic, but they are really only a small part of a much greater whole. Much like the historical legends that influence the novel, there are dozens upon dozens of named characters who play a significant role and whose actions, even those that seem inconsequential, will have a tremendous impact on the way events develop. Liu has established a complex world filled with differing cultures and traditions which are in conflict with one another. Government administration, politics, economics, commerce, social structures, history, religion, mythology, geography, agriculture, philosophy, education, innovation, technology and so much more have all been taken into consideration in the creation of The Dandelion Dynasty. And none of it exists in a vacuum. The interplay and intricate connections among all of these different aspects of Dara has been captured remarkably well; a simple change in one that may initially appear to be insignificant can trigger a chain reaction which has unexpected and far-reaching ramifications in the others.The Grace of Kings recounts over two decades of Dara's history and legends, following the people involved in the wars resulting from the collapse of the empire and the attempts made to establish a new order among the chaos. The story is told in short chapters, many of which at first don't seem to be directly related, but they slowly build upon each other as more and more connections form. The Grace of Kings becomes increasingly complex as it progresses but the novel is still easy to read and follow, showing how the actions of a single person can dramatically change the course of history. The world of The Grace of Kings is so incredibly well-realized that it can be imagined how events would have turned out if any particular person's decisions were made differently. Very few of the characters act maliciously without good reason and none could be described as evil for evil's sake; what they do they do because they believe it to be right. But even so, sometimes the consequences are heartbreakingly tragic. The Grace of Kings is the beginning of a spectacular epic; the magnificent worldbuilding and diverse cast of believably flawed characters greatly impressed me.Experiments in Manga
  • (3/5)
    I am torn on this book. Parts of it were wonderful but other parts were convoluted and dragged a bit. I can see where some people would love it. It just didn't quite connect with me. I liked the world building but didn't always like the character building. A solid 3.5 but I am not sure I will read the next one.
  • (5/5)
    Three of my favourite books by Guy Gavriel Kay are Lions of Al-Rassan, Under Heaven and River of Stars. The Grace of Kings is very much a book that belongs in this company.

    Like all three books, this is also fantasy light set in an imagined world. Like Under Heaven and River of Stars it is clearly about a version of China painted by someone who very much cares for the source material and is willing to spend considerlable prose to get the ambience just right. The poetry, the characters and the entire set is painted with the same care Ken Liu use in his short stories.

    Like Lions of Al-Rassan this is also a book about friendship, about war and how power changes relationships. It's also a book about heroes.

    But it is not a book by Kay. There's more action, the cast and the stage is larger. This is neither better nor worse, just different. Liu is creating something new, whereas Kay was recreating something that could have been. Liu uses a slightly broader brush than Kay and Kay hits harder with his emotional punches.

    They are both delightful.

  • (4/5)
    This is an epic fantasy in the truest sense. The book is long and the cast of characters is large, but Liu's skillful writing makes it easy to remember who is who. I love the classical feel of the book, with its heavy Chinese influences, and how even the gods make intermittent appearances.I won't get into details about what happens. There are too many twists and turns, and I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I have encountered other reviews that criticize the minimal role of women. I agree with this assessment for the most part, though the few women in the cast play absolutely vital roles.I thoroughly enjoyed Grace of Kings. It's a thick tome, but the pace is consistent and it is a fast read. The novel is worthy of its buzz and I fully expect it to be up for multiple awards in 2016.
  • (3/5)
    This is one of those times where I can see the merit of a book even though I didn't connect to it as much as I had hoped. I did tear up by the end of The Grace of Kings, but it was a long time getting there. I felt like I kept trying to give this book a big hug and it kept putting its arm out to stop me from getting close. The writing style makes it feel very much like you're watching everything happen from pretty far away and you don't get much chance to emotionally connect with the bajillion characters. If you like battles, this is the book for you. I don't much care for battles and war, so while I'm happy I finished it in hindsight because I really liked moments, I probably won't continue the series.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 enjoyed it but not enough for me to carry on with the series, I just felt at times that some characters acted oddly to how there had acted before also the Gods didn't work for me
  • (4/5)
    Overall pretty good, but some of the section were too short, while others dragged on a bit. The gods aspect seemed kind of an afterthought: book might actually have been better without it.
  • (3/5)
    Took me a while to great this. Not sure I really got in to it either. Interesting to have a Chinese dimension for a change.
  • (3/5)
    The Grace of Kings is a good book. I liked it. I really liked it. The prose is beautiful. Ken Liu can really write . The depravity of war and conquest is more terrifying and the heat of battle more intense simply because it was he who wrote it.

    The world building is vast and well put together. However, as detailed and well constructed the as the world itself is, the characters lack in depth.

    None of the extraordinarily large cast has much, if any, depth whatsoever. They have characteristics and qualities, but there is never any real, solid character development. Even the main characters suffer from this, and, certainly, do the host of assorted characters who pop in and out of the story. There aren't many female characters within this large cast either. I can't necessarily fault the story for this. It's a tale of war in a society where women weren't fighters or leaders, so I can understand. But those women who did show up were treated with the same lack of depth as the rest.

    In that same vein, the story does grow predictable. It becomes easier and easier to predict characters actions, and, ultimately, the outcome of individual battles and the war itself.

    In the end, the book fell a bit short for me.
  • (5/5)
    Absolutely amazing book the is written in a way that makes you think it is real historic events. The story itself is very similar to Chinese classics like Romance of the Three Kingdoms or even similar to Greek epics, but has a modern way of writing. The book could have easily been separated in two books, but I appreciate it being one longer book as it keeps the essence of the book alive and well. The story is riddled with different themes and even addresses certain aspects, such as sexism, honor, love and brotherhood. The main thing I took away from the book was the idea of it is not what the actual truth is, but what people perceive as the truth. Great novel with great characters that are all truly flawed heroes.
  • (2/5)
    Too many characters without backstories, lurching action scenes, improbable dialogue.
  • (5/5)
    When I first started reading this book, I thought it would be a historical fiction novel featuring Edgar Allen Poe and the Usher family that he wrote about over a century ago. It turned out to be set in modern day. I was hoping for historical fiction given that McCammon is terrific as an author in that genre. Having said that, Usher’s Passing did not disappoint.It was an interesting and imaginative tale. In this world, the Usher family is one of the wealthiest in the world, with their fortune tied to the sale of arms. Rix Usher is the outcast of the family. He’s a horror writer (I imagine Robert McCammon put some elements of himself into this character). He’s vehemently against the family business but returns to their compound in North Carolina with his father dying. Although Rix doesn’t want anything to do with the family business, he wants to write an expose/history of the family in sordid detail. But what lurks beneath the surface is the supernatural and how the family has been able to achieve the fortune through ties with otherworldly forces.There are some nice twists and turns in this novel. The main baddie here is the Pumpkin Man, a supernatural character who has been abducting children for decades. When the reveal was finally made about the Pumpkin Man’s identity, I was surprised. It was a well delivered set up that made sense in retrospect but caught me off guard. I thought there was good character development in this novel, with a good many memorable characters. The writing was strong and purposeful. The supernatural elements mixed in well with the parts that were grounded in reality. My only negative was that I felt it dragged in certain parts and could have used some trimming to make it a tighter story.Carl Alves - author of The Invocation
  • (5/5)
    It's the Chinese history of Qin and Han reimagined masterfully.
  • (2/5)
    "How alone he is, high above in his peerless splendor. And how afraid."- from Ken Liu's "Grace of Kings" Ken Liu crafts a beautifully vibrant world in the early parts of his new fantasy, "Grace of Kings". Through the first third of the book, Liu’s world, reminiscent of medieval Asian empires, contains characters that give his story life. There's an intense reality to the history and the mythology that imbues his world with a third dimension.The plot is fairly straight forward…Within a single generation, an evil empire rules the world. Some citizens adjust and go along with the new regime, while others can never forget the crimes committed against themselves and their families. Some characters are heroic, all are flawed. Revenge is a theme painted in bold strokes while the characters morph rather abruptly over the length of the plot.With a touch of Homer, Liu’s Gods poke around in the world of measly humans. Though, like the ancient gods in Greece, they have a fairly arbitrary set of rules so they’re able to only stir the trouble, not directly impact people’s actions.Unfortunately, most characters are rather two-dimensional. And while the story soars to heights equal to the emperors' armada of silk-covered airships in the first third of the book, the plot falls over under it’s own weight in the middle. The plot thickens, but the narrative thins. While clocking in at just over 600-pages, it feels that author Liu might’ve felt rushed after creating a tremendous foundation in the early goings of the novel.I thoroughly enjoyed the early parts of the story. Part mythology, part fantasy, and part fairy tale, the experience was delightful. But I simply found the latter two thirds of the book to be a disappointing slog. I received this through Amazon’s Vine program.
  • (5/5)
    I 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 legendary tales of Ancient Chinese history 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 were…interesting.It seems 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 reading anything else in my life. It was part giddiness at the familiarity of the topic; the fall of the Qin Dynasty and the subsequent 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 scene/character/event, etc.!” pretty much every few chapters.I was also moved. It won’t be easy trying to describe my emotions while reading this, but I’m going to damn well try. 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. I don’t usually get sappy in my reviews, but I don’t know how else to tell you just 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 art.While 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 perspective.Indeed, 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 tell.This collection of narratives therefore makes the widespread conflict feel more 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 world.That 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 Qin 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 there.Ken 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 even 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-quarters 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 surprise.The 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 more 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 more 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.
  • (4/5)
    This epic fantasy spans decades, starting with a corrupt rulership that has much of the population enslaved one way or another, plenty of folks plot and scheme for a better life. Folks get their wish, sort of, as factions break away from the old regime. Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu become leaders of two of these factions and eventually good friends. However, the glory of battle after battle and the resultant peace will test their friendship.This was a beautiful, sweeping story. The characters were fascinating and the cast was well balanced. At first, I thought the story would be a kind of alternate Japanese ancient history tale with some mythology tossed in. I was a bit off the mark. While this story has that indeed, there is so much more going on. Various ethnicities are represented and while the story centers around a series of islands, there is plenty of back and forth with the mainland. The characters, by and large, know the world is larger than their immediate settings. Also, there are deities gambling on their chosen favorites, finding sneaky little ways to affect the world they watch.I especially loved the fighting kites. Yes, these are kites that a warrior straps to their back and they are lifted into the air to do either reconnaissance or battle. There are several scenes that make good use of these kites. There are also airships in play as well!There are plenty of ladies in this novel and they are not trivial bits of pretty fluff either. Gia is skilled at herb lore and administering her household. She’s a fit mind to spar with one of our heroes, Kuni. Late to the show we get a female warrior, Jin, and I hope we see more of her in Book 2. There are other ladies with large and small roles, but these two really stood out to me.Kuni wasn’t my favorite character in the beginning but he grew to be so. He starts off as a bit of a wastrel and layabout. He gambles and drinks too much and refuses to work. Yes, he still lives with his parents, so they have to put up with his self-centered uselessness even as they see that he’s clothed and fed. Then things start to change for him and he becomes something else by the middle of the book. He kind of stumbles into his calling.Meanwhile, Mata struck me as a fascinating character right from the beginning. He’s from a royal family and was raised to be a ruler, if not the supreme ruler. He has refined manners and tastes. Plus he is simply physically imposing with his 8 foot stature and his double pupils. Yes, double pupils. Go look that up. There’s plenty of mesmerizing images even if there isn’t a scientifically documented occurrence.There’s one drawback to this book and that is all the rather long info dumps. The author writes beautifully, so often I found myself in the middle of an interesting info dump before I knew it. However, there are so many of them that I felt that a good chunk of this book was written like a history novel instead of an action-packed epic fantasy. Perhaps that is exactly what the author intended. Even with all the info dumps, I still really enjoyed the tale.The Narration: Michael Kramer is a long-time favorite narrator and he doesn’t disappoint with this performance. He has a matter-of-fact voice for the longer info dumps and a variety of voices and accents for the multitude of characters. He’s also great with emotions for the more poignant scenes.
  • (5/5)
    There’s been a lot of anticipation about the release of THE GRACE OF KINGS, Ken Liu’s debut novel. If you haven’t heard of Ken Liu, he’s an accomplished writer of short fiction – his story, PAPER MENAGERIE, won the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award. I was very excited to get an advance review copy, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.Emperor Mapidéré has achieved the seemingly impossible dream unifying of the islands of Dara, but he’s dying, and his empire is buckling under the strain of his autocratic rule. In a time ripe for rebellion, Kuni Garu, a charismatic working-class rogue (the “Dandelion”), and Mata Zyndu, the proud son of a fallen aristrocratic family (the “Chrysanthemum”) are determined to see that dream through. At the brink of victory, though, their fast friendship suddenly turns into deadly enmity, and things aren’t quite so clear cut.The writing style and narrative structure of THE GRACE OF KINGS is fairly unique – it is told simply but perceptively, with myth/folktale qualities. I read somewhere that it’s influenced by Chinese pingshu storytelling, but I know nothing about that. There’s no point of view character, instead we get the whole story from a variety of different points of view as the plot demands, sometimes switching to entirely new characters from across the continent from where our protagonists are. None of the scenes lasts very long, the dialogue is economical and direct (but not so much so as to be unrealistic/humorous like the Belgariad, for example) but still conveys immense subtlety.I ended up comparing THE GRACE OF KINGS to THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN by Guy Gavriel Kay, which I read only a few weeks ago, and it’s not really a fair comparison, but I’ll talk about it (no spoilers) since I’m sure it influences my review. Both books are about two larger than life men and the conflict that they are forced into, and both have extraordinary but different styles of prose. In THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN, we’re firmly focused on the characters – Rodrigo Belmonte and Ammar ibn Khairan are truly larger than life, incredible, men through the force of their own personalities, representing the best a human can aim to be. The reader cannot help but love them. In THE GRACE OF KINGS, the focus is more on the tale that is being told – Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu are more a product of their circumstances. Their personalities are very much evident, but much of what they do is because of advice, politics, the intervention of the gods. They are certainly extraordinary heroes within their world, but they still act in accordance with their natures, they don’t try to rise above them.This makes complete sense if you look at it in terms of Western and Eastern philosophy – the Western tradition focused a lot on improving the self and the role of every individual (THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN is a parallel of Moorish Spain), but Eastern philosophy emphasizes interconnectedness and inevitability (THE GRACE OF KINGS is inspired by ancient China). It’s a pretty minor distinction, but it made THE GRACE OF KINGS seem grimmer and not have as much heart, although it just comes from using a different storytelling tradition.Okay, so this book is well-written, but it is also a lot of fun. Ken Liu calls it “silkpunk” – a riff on steampunk that is inspired by East Asian antiquity, and it features some fascinating takes on traditional steampunk technologies – airships, submarines, gliders, and other cool gadgets. There are multiple wars in this book, so there’s plenty of thrilling and often cinematic action. There’s a lot of unexpected humor, and some truly dramatic moments (the one where Mata Zyndu finds his horse, for instance), often aided by the gods.Speaking of the gods, I loved how they were portrayed. Each of the countries has their own god, and they (of course) swear not to interfere in the affairs of mortals, and manage to sneak a whole bunch of interfering in while keeping to the letter of their agreement. They’re often not any wiser than the mortals, though, and although their motivations can be mysterious, sometimes they are quite petty. I’m familiar with spiteful, squabbling gods from Hindu mythology, and they heightened the mythological feel of the book.Although the plot of the book was based loosely on the rise of the Han dynasty in ancient China, I appreciated the fact that the world was very different from ancient China. The Islands of Dara are an archipelago, for one, and their customs are not distinctly evocative of any one place. The world seemed organically built based on the geography and the cultural interplay, and that is the best kind of world.The one thing that I didn’t enjoy about the book was how much of what happened happened because people were greedy and power-hungry. I think this goes back to the same kind of inevitability that I talked about earlier – it almost felt like many of the characters were the same kind of person, and the only reason they acted differently was because of their circumstances. Rebels replaced tyrants and became tyrants themselves, competent men and women let their competency go to their head and ended up destroying everything they’d worked for because they wanted more power. There were exceptions, but even they were tempted. It seemed like a world where ambition was expected, or maybe the story only focused on the ambitious people; I’m not sure – it is a book that’s about empires toppling, after all. I kept wishing for some nice characters, but they all ended up dead. If you’re a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire etc., this may be a feature, not a bug.I’m uncertain about how I feel about the end of the book. It was a self-contained story, but the way everyone was acting made me uneasy for the future. It does make me excited to read the next book, though – especially because Ken Liu has said that each book will have a different theme, and the next one will focus more on historical misogyny.
  • (3/5)
    Brilliant in many ways yet in the end not my cup of tea. The Grace of Kings is the story of the overthrow of a king/tyrant. Yet the question remained, what was he being replaced with? Who and what? Many individuals in this story battled to become his replacement, but is the new boss same as the old boss? If the system does not change, do we only live better thanks to the grace of kings? Or queen as the case may be? Are we simply dependent on the generosity of the rich and powerful?The Grace of Kings is set in a quasi-Chinese medieval world with elements of both magic and steampunk. Liu does a nice job of building a coherent and consistent world to play out his continent wide story of intrigue and warfare. He deftly shifts back and forth between individual characters and shifting political alliances to play out both human and geo-political stories. I found the decisions he made as to how political actors would vie back and forth for power to be both unexpected and believable. He has a knack for interweaving different levels of self-interest and greed, ignorance and fear, nobility and empathy, and the detached tyranny of royalty who have no relationship to lower classes. He also has a strong feminist sensibility wherein women are both oppressed and underrated actors who can assume great positions of power when they are clever enough to maneuver for position. In fact, women as political actors is not implied, it's a distinct vein of the story.With so much going for it, why didn't I love this political fantasy? Primarily because it was so militaristic and geo-political, it's not a world I enjoyed living in for 600 some-odd pages. A bit too much like a very clever game of Risk. I prefer a story closer to the characters. I found that Liu kept us at arm's-length from the characters. Mostly believable characterizations yet I never felt close to them or that I really knew them, with intermittent exceptions.Nonetheless, I can recommend this story to lovers of epic fantasy. It's quite well written with impressive understanding of both military and political strategy as well as the human cost of war and dictatorships.
  • (4/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    This was kind of strange, but not necessarily bad. The long Asian-style names made it very hard to keep track of a large cast of characters (especially on audio) and for the first 20% of the story it was there didn't seem to be any main characters. It jumped around a bunch and then at some point it was finally obvious. The good thing was that once the main characters were obvious they were very likable characters.The other strange thing about it is that it seemed like it could end multiple times, but didn't. It threw me, but I actually like it because it was original. It was like there were multiple climax's to the story, like "Yeah! Everything worked out, the good guys won! ... oh wait, Houston, we have a problem." I definitely glad that the last 5 hours of listening wasn't a epicly long epilogue. This almost seemed like an Asian "Game of Thrones", but it was nowhere near as gritty and engrossing. So maybe a YA Game of Thrones. Maybe especially because there was no real magic going on and lots of political intrigue.

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (4/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    At times overwhelming. Definitely needs a reread before the next one comes out.

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (4/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    File under: Books that I admire more than I like. While I started out reading this with high expectations after awhile it seemed to have too much incident and not enough character development; when I found myself mostly relating to the Emperor Mapidere I suspect this is not the result the author would have wanted. At least one of my fellow book-group members found this whole cast of characters too flat to be acceptable.

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (3/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    An ambitious, epic fantasy... that at times felt more like reading a history than a novel.

    I'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 long).

    We'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 violently.

    It'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, in 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 more 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 more 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 play.

    Individual 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 to, 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.

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