Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms
Author:  Ken Liu
Series:  The Dandelion Dynasty 2
Publisher:  Saga Press, October 4, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 880 pages
List Price:  US$29.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:   9781481424301 (print); 9781481424325 (eBook)

In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

Brannigan's Review

Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings was one of my top books of last year. The Wall of Storms is the second book in his Dandelion Dynasty series and I have to say it is an amazing sequel. Liu does everything right for his sequel, he expands on the cast of characters, the world itself and the conflict.

When it comes to characters, Liu knows how to bring complexity. I thought he had a lot of characters in The Grace of Kings, well I was wrong. He added even more for this book and spends plenty of time giving them time on the page to develop their own stories. Something I really enjoyed with this second book is the fact that so many female characters got so much attention and development. The Emperor Kuni Garu, the main protagonist, has two wives (or a wife and a consort), and a daughter--not to mention the leaders and scholars in the court that are also female. Each of these female characters play major parts in this story as they all want to have as much influence in the court as possible and go about it in different ways and even work against each other to accomplish their goals.

Some things that I really enjoyed about the first book that continue over into this book is the way that Ken Liu does writes his characters in such an equitable way. There are never any truly good or evil characters. They all seem to do the wrong things, even if they've justified them to be right in their minds. Yet because they stay true to their needs, I find myself forgiving them or at least feeling empathy. The antagonists in this story have plenty of relatable aspects to their personalities and yet they do some really horrible things even if you can understand why they do it. I love the complexity Liu gives them.

The world expands a lot in this second book as we see how the islands react after the rebellion and the new Emperor starts his rule. Once again the gods spend a lot of time in the story popping in and out, taking sides with different factions and generally causing as much chaos as possible. I've never been a huge fan of deities in fantasy fiction. We see the mixture of technology and magic development much more in this second book, which I found very entertaining. We are also introduced to the Wall of Storms, which I don't remember ever being mentioned in the first book. Basically, the islands are protected or separated from the mainland by a wall of cyclones that keeps ships from crossing it. This aspect of the world plays a major part of the conflict in the story.

I love Ken Liu's writing, but I always try to point out one or two flaws I find in the book to be fair. Liu is a master storyteller and mixes in some beautiful poetic lines in his prose. His descriptions are breathtaking. However, this is not a short book. It's 858 pages and it's a very slow read with a lot of political dueling and the introduction of many new characters while balancing the already large cast. Things don't really pick up speed until the last 1/3 of the book. This is not to say I didn't enjoy every part of the book, but it took me much longer to read. Much like the pacing of the book, the number of characters and plots going through this book can become very confusing. Once again, you have to know your limits as a reader. If you prefer your cast of main characters to be under ten, this isn't the book for you.

The Wall of Storms brought everything I wanted in a sequel. I spent a good month enjoying myself in this one book and would love to do it again. I can't wait to see where we go from here and even though I'm not a huge fan of stories lasting longer than three books, I'll be sad if it ends in the next book. If you love an immersible Asian Fantasy with a large cast of complex characters, you're going to be in heaven with this one. You really need to read the first book in the series to enjoy this book, but you won't regret the time you'll spend in Liu's world. Frankly, they would be the perfect two books to enjoy over the holidays.


The Grace of Kings
The Dandelion Dynasty 1
Saga Press, August 9, 2016
Trade Paperback, 640 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, February 23, 2016

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 NPR.

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.

See Brannigan's Review here.


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