Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings
AuthorKen Liu
Series:  The Dandelion Dynasty 1
Publisher:  Saga Press, April 7, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 640 pages
List Price:  $27.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781481424271 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

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.

Brannigan's Review

The Grace of Kings, like the dandelion, isn't all it appears to be at first, and you'll be rewarded if you take the time to invest in the story. I have never read nor have I heard of Ken Liu, but I must say I was intrigued after I saw that he has won so many awards.

The story is set in a realistic fantasy world. There are a few elements of the story that have the feel of magic but nothing that is so far fetched I would have to believe a magical spell would be the cause. The gods of this world play a part in the story and use their godly powers from time to time, but I don't consider that the same as magic in the sense of spells and enchantments. There are several islands with Asian nation states that have just recently been conquered by the first emperor.

The story quickly shows the evil acts of a megalomaniac ruler who subjugates the people to build the world as he wishes. The common people of the islands suffer the most under the hand of the emperor and several different rebel groups spring up to fight against the new empire. Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu start off in two separate paths of rebellion but soon find each other and work together to defeat the Emperor. They become as close as brothers in their fight to end the empire.

This is where Ken Liu showed me what an award-winning writer can do. From this point on, there are no longer true heroes or villains. Liu shows how power corrupts some and how others have the strength to resist power. He shows several times how far a good person must bend their moral beliefs to win if it means saving the world. These are things we've all learned before, but Liu does it so smoothly, without immediately drawing attention to the lesson, that it feels more natural. There are countless sacrifices by almost every character in the story. Liu explores honor with its many different rules and etiquette and how each character interprets it differently to serve his or her own purpose. Liu is a master of political intrigue, there are so many plots, deals, betrayals and rescues that kept me engaged.

This is an epic in every sense of the word. Liu's characters and the world they live in captivated me. I learned so much about each of them that it doesn't matter if I labeled them a hero or villain, I related to each. The world they struggle to free or control is fully realized. Liu spends time on every island and gives the history of so many characters both important and not. This can be good or bad, depending on the likes of a reader. I haven't had the chance to read a true epic in awhile so I feasted on each page and was satisfied by the end of the story. Most of the battles are only briefly described or summarized with most of the action taking place in the political arena.

The Grace of Kings is a brilliant start to what will be, without a doubt, an impressive series. It forced me to reexamine how I look at historical figures and the men and women leading the world today. There is no true good or evil in the world. We flow back and forth between the spectrum. There are acts of violence, mild language some adult situations. I would recommend it to older teens and adults. This is the dream of any fan of epic fantasy. It's also a great book for people who love strong male and female characters, politics and fully realized world.


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